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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.

 


 

Alleviating GAA repeat induced transcriptional silencing of the Friedreich's ataxia gene during somatic cell reprogramming

Friedreich's ataxia is the most common autosomal recessive ataxia. This severe neurodegenerative disease is caused by an expansion of GAA repeats located in the first intron of the frataxin (FXN) gene, which represses its transcription. Although transcriptional silencing is associated with heterochromatin-like changes in the vicinity of the expanded GAAs, the exact mechanism and pathways involved in transcriptional inhibition are largely unknown. As major remodeling of the epigenome is associated with somatic cell reprogramming, modulating chromatin modification pathways during the cellular transition from a somatic to a pluripotent state is likely to generate permanent changes to the epigenetic landscape. We hypothesize that the epigenetic modifications in the vicinity of the GAA repeats can be reversed by pharmacological modulation during somatic cell reprogramming.

Read the entire article HERE

Cognition in Friedreich's ataxia: a behavioral and multimodal imaging study

OBJECTIVE: Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is a spinocerebellar degenerative disorder, in which cognitive deficits are sparsely explored. In this behavioral and multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, we investigated the neurocognitive profile and cortico-cerebellar dysfunctions underlying executive functioning in individuals with FRDA.

METHODS: 22 FRDA patients and 22 controls were clinically and neuropsychologically examined. Fifteen of each underwent structural and functional MRI using a verbal-fluency task with phonemic and semantic conditions. Gray (GM) and white matter (WM) alterations were assessed by means of voxel-based morphometry and diffusion-tensor imaging.

RESULTS: The neuropsychological profile demonstrated deficits in verbal fluency, working memory and social cognition. Functional MRI data showed most pronounced group-differences in phonemic fluency with patients exhibiting enhanced activity in the cerebellum (VI, Crus I), fronto-insular, premotor and temporo-occipital regions. The semantic condition only revealed reduced activity in the anterior cerebellum; for overt speech, we found increased activity in the motor cortex. Functional connectivity-analysis showed higher co-activation within cerebellar and cortical regions, respectively, and impaired interregional coupling between the cerebellum and fronto-insular cortex for phonemic processing, which was also related to poorer task performance. GM reduction in FRDA was mainly found in lobule VI, whereas WM degeneration was more pronounced including brainstem, cerebellum, and cortex. Decreased cerebellar GM was associated with enhanced activity in the fronto-insular cortex, while loss of WM integrity may translate cortico-cerebellar pathway disruptions.

INTERPRETATION: The pattern of increased neural response with both cerebellar and cortical involvement underlying executive functioning indicates functional reorganization driven by disease-related structural damage in FRDA.

Read the entire article HERE

Friedreich ataxia induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons show a cellular phenotype that is corrected by a benzamide HDAC inhibitor

We employed induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons obtained from Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) patients and healthy subjects, FRDA neurons and CT neurons, respectively, to unveil phenotypic alterations related to frataxin (FXN) deficiency and investigate if they can be reversed by treatments that upregulate FXN. FRDA and control iPSCs were equally capable of differentiating into a neuronal or astrocytic phenotype. FRDA neurons showed lower levels of iron-sulfur and lipoic acid-containing proteins, higher labile iron pool (LIP), higher expression of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD2), increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and lower reduced glutathione (GSH) levels, and enhanced sensitivity to oxidants compared to CT neurons, indicating deficient iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis, altered iron metabolism, and oxidative stress.

Read the entire article HERE

Functional and Gait Assessment in Children and Adolescents Affected by Friedreich's Ataxia: A One-Year Longitudinal Study

Friedreich's ataxia is the most common autosomal recessive form of neurodegenerative ataxia. We present a longitudinal study on the gait pattern of children and adolescents affected by Friedreich's ataxia using Gait Analysis and the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA). We assessed the spectrum of changes over 12 months of the gait characteristics and the relationship between clinical and instrumental evaluations. We enrolled 11 genetically confirmed patients affected by Friedreich's ataxia in this study together with 13 normally developing age-matched subjects. Eight patients completed a 12-month follow-up under the same protocol. By comparing the gait parameters of Friedreich's ataxia with the control group, we found significant differences for some relevant indexes. In particular, the increased knee and ankle extension in stance revealed a peculiar biomechanical pattern, which correlated reliably with SARA Total, Gait and Sitting scores.

Read the entire article HERE

Pharmacological treatments for Friedreich ataxia

OBJECTIVES:
To assess the effects of pharmacological treatments for Friedreich ataxia.

SEARCH METHODS:
On 29 February 2016 we searched The Cochrane Neuromuscular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL Plus. On 7 March 2016 we searched ORPHANET and TRIP. We also checked clinical trials registers for ongoing studies.

SELECTION CRITERIA:
We considered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs of pharmacological treatments (including vitamins) in people with genetically-confirmed Friedreich ataxia. The primary outcome was change in a validated Friedreich ataxia neurological score after 12 months. Secondary outcomes were changes in cardiac status as measured by magnetic resonance imaging or echocardiography, quality of life, mild and serious adverse events, and survival. We excluded trials of duration shorter than 12 months.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS:
Three review authors selected trials and two review authors extracted data. We obtained missing data from the two RCTs that met our inclusion criteria. We collected adverse event data from included studies. We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.

Read the entire article HERE

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