Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is a progressive, inherited, neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no cure or approved treatment. FRDA is caused by deficits in the production and expression of frataxin, a protein found in the mitochondria that is most likely responsible for regulating iron-sulfur cluster enzymes within the cell. A decrease in frataxin causes dysfunction of adenosine triphosphate synthesis, accumulation of mitochondrial iron, and other events leading to downstream cellular dysfunction. Areas covered: Therapeutic development for FRDA currently focuses on improving mitochondrial function and finding ways to increase frataxin expression. Additionally, the authors will review potential approaches aimed at iron modulation and genetic modulation. Finally, gene therapy is progressing rapidly and is being explored as a treatment for FRDA. Expert commentary: The collection of multiple therapeutic approaches provides many possible ways to treat FRDA. Although the mitochondrial approaches are not thought to be curative, as the primary frataxin deficit will remain, they may still produce improvements in quality of life and slowing of progression. Therapies aimed at frataxin restoration are more likely to truly modify the disease, with gene therapy as the best possibility to alter the course of the disease from both a cardiac and neurological perspective.
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