Tissue Donation for Research

People with FA and their family members are invited to inquire about tissue donation for research. Tissue may come from a surgical procedure or at the end of life. Friedreich's ataxia (FA) is a very complex disease that affects the spinal cord, nerves, brain, heart, muscle, bone, and insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Therefore, tissue from any of these affected organs can provide valuable insights into the disease process and facilitate the development of therapeutics.

Surgical Tissue Donation

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has an open study that accepts tissue donation from individuals with FA who have a surgical procedure performed (e.g., muscle tissue). These surgical procedures can include things like scoliosis surgery and tendon transfer surgery. They are also looking for individuals with FA who have had biopsies performed in the past at other hospitals (e.g., cardiac or muscle biopsy). See this link to learn more about this study.

Autopsy Tissue Donation

In addition, when a person dies from the complications of FA, a rapid autopsy will allow researchers to collect important organs for detailed study. Previous donations of organs upon death from individuals with FA have provided us with a much greater understanding of FA and how the condition affects the brain, spinal cord, eyes and heart. Such donations are still needed as new technologies are available to study these tissues and in some cases, it is possible to evaluate new treatment approaches. The goal is to learn as much as possible about FA and apply new knowledge to diagnosis, treatment, and care of other patients with the disease.  Many recent breakthroughs are based on research that has only been possible because FA families have donated tissues. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  if you are interested in learning more about donation of tissues or organs upon death. It is helpful to contact us in advance as it takes some time to ensure all the proper arrangements are in place upon death. This ensures that the intentions of the individual and family can be carried out. If you’d like to speak with someone in the FARA office during business hours to discuss your intention, please call (484) 879 6160. If you need to contact someone outside of business hours, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Barbara Tate, FARA CSO at (617) 835-2114


Parent Perspective

Raychel is a parent who has gone through this process. She offers her compassion and wisdom as she helps organize the donation. Studies of her son Keith's organs and tissues have played a key role in understanding the effects of the disease on the heart and other organs.
Keith at age 6 Read Raychel's personal story of Keith's donation

FARA supports an autopsy program at the VA Medical Center in Albany, New York under principal investigator Dr. Arnulf Koeppen, a neurologist and neuropathologist. Dr. Koeppen has made significant contributions to our understanding of FA and other ataxias. Dr, Koeppen has provided insight about severity of illness and cause of death to many FA families who lost a loved son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, or husband. Dr. Koeppen collaborates with many FA researchers all over the world. He shares his experience with other investigators and makes available valuable FA tissues for ongoing and future research.


Tissue Bank Access

The tissue bank has fixed and frozen tissues from brain, spinal cord, heart, sural nerve, and pancreas of 30 individuals with FA. Requests for these tissues can be by contacting FARA at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Albany Research Institute at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..