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FARAFARA Cure FA

 

Scientific News

FARA funds research progress

In this section, you will find the most recent FA research publications, many of which are funded by FARA, as well as information on upcoming conferences and symposiums. You can search for articles by date using the archive box in the right hand column. To locate FARA Funded or Supported Research, click the hyperlink in the right hand column. You may also search for specific content using key words or phrases in the search button at the top right of your screen. Please be sure to visit other key research sections of our website for information on FARA’s Grant Program and the Treatment Pipeline.

 


 

Liquid Chromatography-High Resolution Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Platelet Frataxin as a Protein Biomarker for the Rare Disease Friedreich's Ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disease caused by an intronic GAA triplet expansion in the FXN gene, leading to reduced expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. FA is estimated to affect 1 in 50,000 with a mean age of death in the fourth decade of life. There are no approved treatments for FA, although experimental approaches, which involve up-regulation or replacement of frataxin protein, are being tested. Frataxin is undetectable in serum or plasma, and whole blood cannot be used because it is present in long-lived erythrocytes. Therefore, an assay was developed for analyzing frataxin in platelets, which have a half-life of 10-days. The assay is based on stable isotope dilution immunopurification two-dimensional nano-ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography/parallel reaction monitoring/mass spectrometry. The lower limit of quantification was 0.078 pg frataxin/μg protein and the assay had 100% sensitivity and specificity for discriminating between controls and FA cases. The mean levels of control and FA platelet frataxin were 9.4 2.6 pg/g protein and 2.4 0.6 pg/g protein, respectively. The assay should make it possible to rigorously monitor the effects of therapeutic interventions on frataxin expression in this devastating disease.

Read the entire article HERE

Early VGLUT1-specific parallel fiber synaptic deficits and dysregulated cerebellar circuit in the KIKO mouse model of Friedreich ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder with progressive ataxia that affects both the peripheral and central nervous system (CNS). While later CNS neuropathology involves loss of large principal neurons and glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic terminals in the cerebellar dentate nucleus, early pathological changes in FRDA cerebellum remain largely uncharacterized. This study reports early cerebellar VGLUT1 (SLC17A7)-specific parallel fiber (PF) synaptic deficits and dysregulated cerebellar circuit in the frataxin knock-in/knockout (KIKO) FRDA mouse model. At asymptomatic ages, VGLUT1 levels in cerebellar homogenates are significantly decreased, whereas VGLUT2 (SLC17A6) levels are significantly increased, in KIKO mice compared with age-matched controls. Additionally, GAD65 (GAD2) levels are significantly increased, while GAD67 (GAD1) levels remain unaltered. This suggests early VGLUT1-specific synaptic input deficits, and dysregulation of VGLUT2 and GAD65 synaptic inputs, in the cerebellum of asymptomatic KIKO mice. Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy further show specific reductions of VGLUT1-containing PF presynaptic terminals in the cerebellar molecular layer, demonstrating PF synaptic input deficiency in asymptomatic and symptomatic KIKO mice. Moreover, the parvalbumin levels in cerebellar homogenates and Purkinje neurons are significantly reduced, but preserved in other interneurons of the cerebellar molecular layer, suggesting specific parvalbumin dysregulation in Purkinje neurons of these mice. Furthermore, a moderate loss of large principal neurons is observed in the dentate nucleus of asymptomatic KIKO mice, mimicking that of FRDA patients. Our findings thus identify early VGLUT1-specific PF synaptic input deficits and dysregulated cerebellar circuit as potential mediators of cerebellar dysfunction in KIKO mice, reflecting developmental features of FRDA in this mouse model.

Read the entire article HERE

Somatic instability of the expanded GAA repeats in Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder caused by transcriptional silencing of the frataxin gene (FXN) due to expansions of GAA repeats in intron 1. FRDA manifests with multiple symptoms, which may include ataxia, cardiomyopathy and diabetes mellitus. Expanded GAA tracts are genetically unstable, exhibiting both expansions and contractions. GAA length correlates with severity of FRDA symptoms and inversely with age of onset. Thus, tissue-specific somatic instability of long GAA repeats may be implicated in the development of symptoms and disease progression. The authors determined the extent of somatic instability of the GAA repeats in heart, cerebral cortex, spinal cord, cerebellar cortex, and pancreatic tissues from 15 FRDA patients. Results demonstrate differences in the lengths of the expanded GAAs among different tissues, with significantly longer GAA tracts detected in heart and pancreas than in other tissues. The expansion bias detected in heart and pancreas may contribute to disease onset and progression, making the mechanism of somatic instability an important target for therapy. Additionally, they detected significant differences in GAA tract lengths between lymphocytes and fibroblast pairs derived from 16 FRDA patients, with longer GAA tracts present in the lymphocytes. This result urges caution in direct comparisons of data obtained in these frequently used FRDA models. Furthermore, they conducted a longitudinal analysis of the GAA repeat length in lymphocytes collected over a span of 7-9 years and demonstrated progressive expansions of the GAAs with maximum gain of approximately 9 repeats per year. Continuous GAA expansions throughout the patient's lifespan, as observed in FRDA lymphocytes, should be considered in clinical trial designs and data interpretation.

Read the entire article HERE

Inducible and reversible phenotypes in a novel mouse model of Friedreich's Ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), the most common inherited ataxia, is caused by recessive mutations that reduce the levels of frataxin (FXN), a mitochondrial iron binding protein. We developed an inducible mouse model of Fxn deficiency that enabled us to control the onset and progression of disease phenotypes by the modulation of Fxn levels. Systemic knockdown of Fxn in adult mice led to multiple phenotypes paralleling those observed in human patients across multiple organ systems. By reversing knockdown after clinical features appear, we were able to determine to what extent observed phenotypes represent reversible cellular dysfunction. Remarkably, upon restoration of near wild-type FXN levels, we observed significant recovery of function, associated pathology and transcriptomic dysregulation even after substantial motor dysfunction and pathology were observed. This model will be of broad utility in therapeutic development and in refining our understanding of the relative contribution of reversible cellular dysfunction at different stages in disease.

Read the entire article HERE

Mitochondrial pore opening and loss of Ca2+ exchanger NCLX levels occur after frataxin depletion

Frataxin-deficient neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and dorsal root ganglia neurons have been used as cell models of Friedreich ataxia. In previous work we show that frataxin depletion resulted in mitochondrial swelling and lipid droplet accumulation in cardiomyocytes, and compromised DRG neuron survival. Now, we show that these cells display reduced levels of the mitochondrial calcium transporter NCLX that can be restored by calcium-chelating agents and by external addition of frataxin fused to TAT peptide. Also, the transcription factor NFAT3, involved in cardiac hypertrophy and apoptosis, becomes activated by dephosphorylation in both cardiomyocytes and DRG neurons. In cardiomyocytes, frataxin depletion also results in mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening. Since the pore opening can be inhibited by cyclosporin A, we show that this treatment reduces lipid droplets and mitochondrial swelling in cardiomyocytes, restores DRG neuron survival and inhibits NFAT dephosphorylation. These results highlight the importance of calcium homeostasis and that targeting mitochondrial pore by repurposing cyclosporin A, could be envisaged as a new strategy to treat the disease.

Read the entire article HERE

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