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Scientific News

FARA funds research progress

In this section, you will find the most recent FA research publications, many of which are funded by FARA, as well as information on upcoming conferences and symposiums. You can search for articles by date using the archive box in the right hand column. To locate FARA Funded or Supported Research, click the hyperlink in the right hand column. You may also search for specific content using key words or phrases in the search button at the top right of your screen. Please be sure to visit other key research sections of our website for information on FARA’s Grant Program and the Treatment Pipeline.


Moonlighting Enzyme Linked To Neurodegenerative Disease

Friedreich's ataxia is one of those diseases few have heard of unless you know someone with the condition. For that individual -- usually a child or teenager -- it is devastating. Symptoms are mild at first: muscle weakness in the arms and legs, vision impairment and slurred speech, but eventually the symptoms progress and most patients become wheelchair-bound and succumb to heart failure later in life. There is no cure at this time, but Mayo Clinic researchers have identified mutations in an enzyme that may contribute to the disease.

Read More: Moonlighting Enzyme Linked To Neurodegenerative Disease

Santhera Updates Development Strategy

Santhera Pharmaceuticals (SWX:SANN), a Swiss specialty pharmaceutical company with a focus on neuromuscular diseases, announces today a revised clinical and regulatory strategy aimed at accelerating the development timelines for its lead compound SNT-MC17/idebenone in Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA) in the US. These changes are the result of discussions with the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) following the positive results of the Company’s collaborative clinical trial with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is anticipated that both the number of patients needed for the Phase III clinical study and the trial’s duration could be significantly reduced, thereby shortening the development timelines approximately by half a year as compared to the Company’s previous plans.

Read More: Santhera Updates Development Strategy for SNT-MC17

NIH and Santhera Announce Positive Results of Study with SNT-MC17

The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) presented results of their recently completed clinical trial with SNT-MC17/idebenone in Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA). Data were presented by Dr. Nicholas Di Prospero at the 3rd International Scientific Friedreich’s Ataxia Conference in Bethesda, MD, on November 10 to 12. This six month double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was carried out in collaboration with Santhera Pharmaceuticals, a Swiss specialty pharmaceutical company with a focus on neuromuscular diseases.

Read More: NIH and Santhera Announce Posi tive Results of Study with SNT-MC17

Health: When Cells Stop Working

Nothing worries parents more than a sick infant--especially when nobody can figure out what's wrong. For Asher Gould's parents, the uncertainty lasted for the first three years of their son's life. Asher's older brother Sam, now 10, has always been pretty healthy. But a couple of months after he was born, Asher started having trouble feeding and was spotting his diapers with blood. The pediatrician decided he had an allergy to milk. Then, at 9 months, he couldn't crawl or sit up. The diagnosis this time was hypotonia, a vague term that basically means "poor muscle tone." With physical therapy, Asher walked...

Read More: Health: When Cells Stop Working

A Molecule That Binds GAA-TCC Triplet Repeat DNA Increases Frataxin Protein in Patient Cells

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Texas A & M University Health Science Center have reported that a synthetic molecule that binds the expanded GAA-TCC repeat sequences in the gene associated with Friedreich's ataxia (frataxin) increases expression of this gene in a cell line derived from a Friedreich's patient, with a corresponding increase in frataxin protein. This paper, published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, represents a first step towards development of gene-targeted therapeutics for FRDA. The next steps in assessing this molecule as a potential therapeutic will be to ask whether the molecule functions in neuronal cells, and whether the molecule can access the organs affected in Friedreich's ataxia — the brain and heart. These questions are being explored in animal studies, being conducted both at Caltech and in collaboration with scientists in Brussels, Belgium. We will also want to know if the molecule increases frataxin expression in the brain and heart in a mouse model for FRDA. If the answers to these questions are positive, then other animal studies will be needed to assess the safety of this molecule prior to any thought of clinical trials. So although encouraging, this work is a first step in the long road toward development of a therapy that increases frataxin protein in our patients. This is very important research because there is a belief that by increasing frataxin protein in patients with Friedreich's ataxia that it may slow or stop progression of the disorder. The article, "DNA sequence-specific polyamides alleviate transcription inhibition associated with long GAA-TTC repeats in Friedreich's ataxia," can be found online at http://www.pnas.org or (Burnett et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, volume 103, pages 11497-11502, 2006).

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