To try to identify human Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) biomarkers of neuro-pathomechanistic relevance, the authors compared the overlapping gene expression changes of primary blood and skin cells of FA patients with changes in the Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) of the KIKO FA mouse model. As DRG is the primary site of neurodegeneration in FA, the goal was to identify which changes in blood and skin of FA patients provide a 'window' into the FA neuropathomechanism inside the nervous system. In addition, gene expression in frataxin-deficient neuroglial cells and FA mouse hearts were compared for a total of 5 data sets. The overlap of these changes strongly supports mitochondrial changes, apoptosis and alterations of selenium metabolism. Consistent biomarkers were observed, including three genes of mitochondrial stress (MTIF2, ENO2), apoptosis (DDIT3/CHOP), oxidative stress (PREX1), and selenometabolism (SEPW1). These results prompted the investigation of the GPX1 activity as a marker of selenium and oxidative stress, in which a significant change in FA patients was observed. These lead biomarkers that can be assayed in FA patient blood are believed to be indicators of disease severity and progression, and also support the involvement of mitochondria, apoptosis and selenium in the neurodegenerative process.
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