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FARA Funded Research

Your generous support has funded all the research listed below.


For more information on FARA-funded research & scientists, please visit FARA Supported Research, Active Clinical Trials and the Featured Scientist.

Excision of expanded GAA repeats alleviates the molecular phenotype of Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurological disease caused by expansions of guanine-adenine-adenine (GAA) repeats in intron 1 of the frataxin (FXN) gene. The expansion results in significantly decreased frataxin expression. We report that human FRDA cells can be corrected by zinc finger nuclease-mediated excision of the expanded GAA repeats. Editing of a single expanded GAA allele created heterozygous, FRDA carrier-like cells and significantly increased frataxin expression. This correction persisted during reprogramming of zinc finger nuclease-edited fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells and subsequent differentiation into neurons. 

Read More: Excision of expanded GAA repeats alleviates the molecular phenotype of Friedreich's ataxia

The pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy in friedreich ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disease with a complex neurological phenotype, but the most common cause of death is heart failure. This study presents a systematic analysis of 15 fixed and 13 frozen archival autopsy tissues of FA hearts and 10 normal controls (8 frozen) by measurement of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy; tissue frataxin assay; X-ray fluorescence (XRF) of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in polyethylene glycol-embedded samples of left and right ventricular walls (LVW, RVW) and ventricular septum (VS); metal quantification in bulk digests by inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES); Fe histochemistry; and immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence of cytosolic and mitochondrial ferritins and of the inflammatory markers CD68 and hepcidin. 

Read More: The pathogenesis of cardiomyopathy in friedreich ataxia

A novel GAA repeat expansion-based mouse model of Friedreich ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused by a GAA repeat expansion mutation within intron 1 of the FXN gene, resulting in reduced levels of frataxin protein. We have previously reported the generation of human FXN yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) transgenic FRDA mouse models containing 90-190 GAA repeats, but the presence of multiple GAA repeats within these mice is considered suboptimal. We now describe the cellular, molecular and behavioural characterisation of a newly developed YAC transgenic FRDA mouse model, designated YG8sR, which we have shown by DNA sequencing to contain a single pure GAA repeat expansion. The founder YG8sR mouse contained 120 GAA repeats but, due to intergenerational expansion, we have now established a colony of YG8sR mice that contain ~200 GAA repeats. We show that YG8sR mice have a single copy of the FXN transgene, which is integrated at a single site as confirmed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) analysis of metaphase and interphase chromosomes. 

Read More: A novel GAA repeat expansion-based mouse model of Friedreich ataxia

Iron regulatory protein 1 sustains mitochondrial iron loading and function in frataxin deficiency

Mitochondrial iron accumulation is a hallmark of diseases associated with impaired iron-sulfur cluster (Fe-S) biogenesis, such as Friedreich ataxia linked to frataxin (FXN) deficiency. The pathophysiological relevance of the mitochondrial iron loading and the underlying mechanisms are unknown.

Read More: Iron regulatory protein 1 sustains mitochondrial iron loading and function in frataxin deficiency

Friedreich Ataxia: Failure of GABA-ergic and Glycinergic Synaptic Transmission in the Dentate Nucleus

Atrophy of large neurons in the dentate nucleus (DN) is an important pathologic correlate of neurologic disability in patients with Friedreich ataxia (FA). Thinning of the DN was quantified in 29 autopsy cases of FA and 2 carriers by measuring the thickness of the gray matter ribbon on stains with anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA).

Read More: Friedreich Ataxia: Failure of GABA-ergic and Glycinergic Synaptic Transmission in the Dentate Nucleus

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