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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.


Mitochondrial dysfunction in neurons in Friedreich's ataxia

Based on clinical evidence, the peripheral nervous system is affected early in Friedreich's ataxia, neuronal dysfunction progresses towards the central nervous system, and other organs (such as heart and pancreas) are affected later. However, little attention has been given to the specific aspects of mitochondria function altered by frataxin depletion in the nervous system. For years, commonly accepted views on mitochondria dysfunction in Friedreich's ataxia stemmed from studies using non-neuronal systems and may not apply to neurons, which have their own bioenergetic needs and present a unique, extensive neurite network. Moreover, the basis of the selective neuronal vulnerability, which primarily affects large sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglia, large principal neurons in the dentate nuclei of the cerebellum, and pyramidal neurons in the cerebral cortex, remains elusive. In order to identify potential misbeliefs in the field and highlight controversies, the authors reviewed current knowledge on frataxin expression in different tissues, discussed the molecular function of frataxin, and the consequences of its deficiency for mitochondria structural and functional properties, with a focus on the nervous system.

Read the entire article HERE

Pediatric Neuromuscular Disorders

This review focuses on neuromuscular disorders, pathologies that can severely affect the quality of life as well as longevity of patients. The most common disorders include cerebral palsy and myelodysplasia. The orthopedic manifestations of these disorders can be treated operatively or nonoperatively. Both focus on the prolongation of mobility and preservation of ambulatory capacity for patients.

Read the entire article HERE

N-Terminomics/TAILS Profiling of Macrophages after Chemical Inhibition of Legumain

Legumain (asparaginyl endopeptidase) is the only protease with a preference for cleavage after asparagine residues. Increased legumain activity is a hallmark of inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, and legumain inhibitors have exhibited therapeutic effects in mouse models of these pathologies. Improved knowledge of its substrates and cellular functions is a requisite to further validation of legumain as a drug target. The authors, therefore, aimed to investigate the effects of legumain inhibition in macrophages using an unbiased and systematic approach. By shotgun proteomics, they identified 16 094 unique peptides in RAW264.7 cells. Among these, 326 unique peptides were upregulated in response to legumain inhibition, while 241 were downregulated. Many of these proteins were associated with mitochondria and metabolism, especially iron metabolism, indicating that legumain may have a previously unknown impact on related processes. Furthermore, the authors used N-terminomics/TAILS (terminal amine isotopic labeling of substrates) to identify potential substrates of legumain. Three new proteins that are cleaved after asparagine residues were identified, which may reflect legumain-dependent cleavage. Frataxin, a mitochondrial protein associated with the formation of iron-sulfur clusters, was confirmed to be cleaved by legumain. This further asserts a potential contribution of legumain to mitochondrial function and iron metabolism. Lastly, the authors also identified a potential new cleavage site within legumain itself that may give rise to a 25 kDa form of legumain that has previously been observed in multiple cell and tissue types. Collectively, these data shed new light on the potential functions of legumain and will be critical for understanding its contribution to disease.

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Possible Mechanisms of Biological Effects Observed in Living Systems during 2H/1H Isotope Fractionation and Deuterium Interactions with Other Biogenic Isotopes

This article presents the original descriptions of some recent physics mechanisms (based on the thermodynamic, kinetic, and quantum tunnel effects) providing stable 2H/1H isotope fractionation, leading to the accumulation of particular isotopic forms in intra- or intercellular space, including the molecular effects of deuterium interaction with 18O/17O/16O, 15N/14N, 13C/12C, and other stable biogenic isotopes. These effects were observed mainly at the organelle (mitochondria) and cell levels. A new hypothesis for heavy nonradioactive isotope fractionation in living systems via neutron effect realization is discussed. The comparative analysis of some experimental studies results revealed the following observation: "Isotopic shock" is highly probable and is observed mostly when chemical bonds form between atoms with a summary odd number of neutrons (i.e., bonds with a non-compensated neutron, which correspond to the following equation: Nn - Np = 2k + 1, where k ϵ Z, k is the integer, Z is the set of non-negative integers, Nn is number of neutrons, and Np is number of protons of each individual atom, or in pair of isotopes with a chemical bond). Data on the efficacy and metabolic pathways of the therapy also considered 2H-modified drinking and diet for some diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Friedreich's ataxia, mitochondrial disorders, diabetes, cerebral hypoxia, Parkinson's disease, and brain cancer.

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Left ventricular structural and functional changes in Friedreich ataxia - Relationship with body size, sex, age and genetic severity

Although a concentric pattern of left ventricular (LV) geometry appears to be common in Friedreich ataxia (FRDA), there is no accepted method for diagnosing LV abnormalities in FRDA, sex and body size have often not been taken into consideration, and it has not been clear whether children and adults should be classified using the same criteria. The aim of this study was to better define the LV geometric changes in FRDA with respect to sex, body size and subject age, and to investigate the relationship of LV changes with genetic severity, as assessed by GAA repeat length within the shorter allele of the FXN gene (GAA1). Echocardiography was performed in 216 subjects (68 children, 148 adults), measurements were made at end-diastole of LV internal diameter (LVEDID), septal wall thickness (SWT), LV length (LVEDL) and LV volume (LVEDV), and calculations were made of relative wall thickness (RWT), LV mass and LV ejection fraction (LVEF). The most common LV abnormalities in both adults and children with FRDA were increases in RWT and age-normalized RWT. In adults, after adjustment for sex and body surface area (BSA), GAA1 was a positive correlate of SWT and RWT (but not of LV mass), and was an inverse correlate of LVEDID, LVEDL and LVEDV. In children there were no correlations of GAA1 with any of the LV variables. In FRDA, increases in RWT and age-normalized RWT are the most frequent LV structural abnormalities, sex and body size are important determinants of most other LV structural variables in both children and adults, and increased genetic severity is associated with a smaller left ventricle and increased LV wall thickness in adults, but not associated with LV size or wall thickness in children.

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