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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.



9th Annual Friedreich’s Ataxia Symposium – 2016 CHOP/FARA – Call For Abstracts

The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) would like to invite young investigators—graduate/medical students and post-doctoral fellows—to submit abstracts for the 9th Annual Friedreich’s Ataxia Symposium to be held on October 16-17, 2016 in King of Prussia, PA. The symposium will include a reception on the evening of Sunday, October 16, and talks throughout the day on Monday, October 17, 2016. Posters will be up throughout the meeting with specific poster sessions during the reception on the 16th and breakfast and lunch on the 17th. We encourage you to share this information with young investigators in your lab who would benefit from gaining greater exposure to the FA community in addition to the experience of presenting their research data.

The Symposium presents an opportunity to engage with the patient community as well as network with other investigators. We wish to give young investigators the opportunity to meet and interact with FA patient families and to recognize how their work directly impacts patients’ lives while simultaneously giving the families more opportunity to learn about ongoing research.

Please click on the links below - to download the necessary information and submission form.

Call For Abstracts (PDF)

Abstract Submission Form (Word DOC)

The Replication of Frataxin Gene Is Assured by Activation of Dormant Origins in the Presence of a GAA-Repeat Expansion

It is well known that DNA replication affects the stability of several trinucleotide repeats, but whether replication profiles of human loci carrying an expanded repeat differ from those of normal alleles is poorly understood in the endogenous context. We investigated this issue using cell lines from Friedreich's ataxia patients, homozygous for a GAA-repeat expansion in intron 1 of the Frataxin gene. By interphase, FISH we found that in comparison to the normal Frataxin sequence the replication of expanded alleles is slowed or delayed. According to molecular combing, origins never fired within the normal Frataxin allele. In contrast, in mutant alleles dormant origins are recruited within the gene, causing a switch of the prevalent fork direction through the expanded repeat. Furthermore, a global modification of the replication profile, involving origin choice and a differential distribution of unidirectional forks, was observed in the surrounding 850 kb region. These data provide a wide-view of the interplay of events occurring during replication of genes carrying an expanded repeat.

Read the entire article HERE

Metal Homeostasis Regulators Suppress FRDA Phenotypes in a Drosophila Model of the Disease

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), the most commonly inherited ataxia in populations of European origin, is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a decrease in frataxin levels. One of the hallmarks of the disease is the accumulation of iron in several tissues including the brain, and frataxin has been proposed to play a key role in iron homeostasis. We found that the levels of zinc, copper, manganese and aluminum were also increased in a Drosophila model of FRDA, and that copper and zinc chelation improve their impaired motor performance. By means of a candidate genetic screen, we identified that genes implicated in iron, zinc and copper transport and metal detoxification can restore frataxin deficiency-induced phenotypes. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the metal dysregulation in FRDA includes other metals besides iron, therefore providing a new set of potential therapeutic targets.

Read the entire article HERE

The significance of intercalated discs in the pathogenesis of Friedreich cardiomyopathy

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive disorder with a complex clinical and neuropathological phenotype, but the most frequent cause of death is cardiomyopathy. The principal autopsy findings in FRDA hearts are concentric hypertrophy, enlargement of cardiomyocytes, myofiber necrosis, inflammatory infiltration, scarring, and random accumulation of iron. In addition, the myocardium shows generalized disorganization of intercalated discs (ICD), the Velcro-like end-to-end connections of heart fibers that provide mechanical cohesion and ionic coupling. The principal components of ICD are fascia adherens junctions (FAJ), desmosomes, and gap junctions. Frataxin deficiency in FRDA may cause improper assembly of ICD early in life, making hearts vulnerable to mechanical stress in childhood and adolescence.

Read the entire article HERE

Interferon gamma may improve cardiac function in Friedreich's ataxia cardiomyopathy

This paper reports the effect of interferon gamma therapy in a single patient suffering from severe FRDA cardiomyopathy. At baseline, the female patient was 18 years old with a BMI of 21.9. She was diagnosed with severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with preserved systolic but attenuated diastolic function at the age of 9, and severe FRDA at the age of 10 with GAA expansion to appr. 700 repeats in both alleles. During the last couple of years, she had experienced several hospital admissions for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. INFγ was administered as subcutaneous injections three times per week. Dosages were gradually increased from 10 μg up to 100 μg over two months; a further increment to 150 μg was instituted after 8 months of treatment. The patient suffered no adverse events, and some markers indicated a possible positive effect of treatment. The authors conclude thata randomised controlled trial should be undertaken in order to assess the effects and safety of INFγ treatment in FRDA cardiomyopathy.

Read the entire article HERE

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