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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.

Imaging neuronal activity in the central and peripheral nervous systems using new Thy1.2-GCaMP6 transgenic mouse lines

The genetically encoded calcium (Ca2+) sensor GCaMP6 has been widely used for imaging Ca2+ transients in neuronal somata, dendrites, and synapses. Here the authors describe five new transgenic mouse lines expressing GCaMP6F (fast) or GCaMP6S (slow) in the central and peripheral nervous system under the control of theThy1.2 promoter. These transgenic lines exhibit stable and layer-specific expression of GCaMP6 in multiple brain regions. They have several unique features compared to existingThy1.2-GCaMP6 mice, including sparse expression of GCaMP6 in layer V pyramidal neurons of the cerebral cortex, motor neurons in the spinal cord, as well as sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia (DRG). These mouse lines allow for robust detection of Ca2+ transients in neuronal somata and apical dendrites in the cerebral cortex of both anesthetized and awake behaving mice, as well as in DRG neurons. These transgenic lines allows calcium imaging of dendrites and somas of pyramidal neurons in specific cortical layers that is difficult to achieve with existing methods.

Read the entire article HERE

An Instrumented Measurement Scheme for the Assessment of Upper Limb Function in Individuals with Friedreich Ataxia

Continuous and objective assessment is essential for accurate monitoring of the progression of neurodegenerative conditions such as Friedreich ataxia. However, current clinical assessments predominantly rely on the ability of the affected individual to complete specific clinical tests which may not capture the intricate kinematic details associated with ataxia. Moreover, such testing often consists of a level of subjectivity of the assessing clinician. In this paper, the authors propose an objective measuring instrument, in the form of a spoon, equipped with the Internet-of-Things (IoT) based system and relevant machine learning techniques to quantitatively assess impairment levels while engaged in routine daily activity. In a clinical study involving individuals diagnosed with Friedreich ataxia, movement patterns during a simulated eating task were captured and kinematic biomarkers were extracted that were consistent with the frequently-used clinical rating scales. Multivariate analysis of these biomarkers allowed to accurately classify individuals with Friedreich ataxia and control subjects to an accuracy of 91%. Furthermore, the kinematic information captured from the spoon can be used to introduce an alternative assessment scheme with a greater sensitivity to ataxic movements and with less inter-rater discrepancy.

Read the entire article HERE

Predictors of loss of ambulation in Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is a characterized by progressive loss of coordination and balance leading to loss of ambulation (LoA) in nearly all affected individuals. While transition to becoming fully wheelchair bound is a critical milestone in the disease course, it presents a particularly challenging prediction, mostly due to variability in inter- and intra-subject severity and progression. For these reasons, LoA or potential surrogates have been impractical as outcomes in clinical trials. The authors studied progressive features leading to LoA in participants enrolled into the Friedreich's Ataxia Clinical Outcome Measures Study (FA-COMS), a natural history study with currently 4606 yearly follow up visits in 1021 patients. Loss of specific functions related to walking and standing of the neurological Friedreich Ataxia Rating Scale (FARS) exams were evaluated using time to event methods. To account for different severities, patients were stratified by age of disease onset. Early onset FRDA patients (

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Frataxin Structure and Function

Mammalian frataxin is a small mitochondrial protein involved in iron sulfur cluster assembly. Valuable knowledge has been gained on the structural dynamics of frataxin, metal-ion-protein interactions, as well as on the effect of mutations on protein conformation, stability and internal motions. Additionally, laborious studies concerning the enzymatic reactions involved have allowed for understanding the capability of frataxin to modulate Fe-S cluster assembly function. Remarkably, frataxin biological function depends on its interaction with some proteins to form a supercomplex, among them NFS1 desulfurase and ISCU, the scaffolding protein. By combining multiple experimental tools including high resolution techniques like NMR and X-ray, but also SAXS, crosslinking and mass-spectrometry, it was possible to build a reliable model of the structure of the desulfurase supercomplex NFS1/ACP-ISD11/ISCU/frataxin. This review explores these issues showing how the scientific view concerning frataxin structure-function relationships has evolved over the last years.

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Health related quality of life in Friedreich Ataxia in a large heterogeneous cohort

This study assessed the Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) of individuals with Friedreich Ataxia (FRDA) through responses to HRQOL questionnaires. The SF-36, a generic HRQOL instrument, and symptom specific scales examining vision, fatigue, pain and bladder function were administered to individuals with FRDA and analyzed by comparison with disease features. Multiple linear regression models were used to study independent effects of genetic severity and age. Assessments were performed at baseline then intermittently after that. Subjects were on average young adults. For the SF36, the subscale with the lowest HRQOL score was the physical function scale, while the emotional well-being score was the highest. The physical function scale correlated with age of onset, duration, and subject age. In assessment of symptom specific scales, bladder control scores (BLCS) correlated with duration and age, while impact of visual impairment scores (IVIS) correlated with duration. In linear regression models, the BLCS, Pain Effect Score, and IVIS scores were predicted by age and GAA length; modified fatigue impact scale scores were predicted only by GAA length. Physical function and role limitation scores declined over time. No change was seen over time in other SF-36 subscores. Symptom specific scales also worsened over time, most notably the IVIS and BLCS. The SF-36 and symptom specific scales capture dysfunction in FRDA in a manner that reflects disease status. HRQOL dysfunction was greatest on physically related scales; such scales correlated with disease duration, indicating that they worsen with progressing disease.

Read the entire article HERE

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