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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.

Developing an Instrumented Measure of Upper Limb Function in Friedreich Ataxia

Upper limb function for people with Friedreich ataxia determines capacity to participate in daily activities. Current upper limb measures available do not fully capture impairments related to Friedreich ataxia. This group has developed an objective measure, the Ataxia Instrumented Measure-Spoon (AIM-S), which consists of a spoon equipped with a BioKin wireless motion capture device, and algorithms that analyse these signals, to measure ataxia of the upper limb during the pre-oral phase of eating. The aim of this study was to evaluate the AIM-S as a sensitive and functionally relevant clinical outcome for use in clinical trials. A prospective longitudinal study evaluated the capacity of the AIM-S to detect change in upper limb function over 48 weeks. Friedreich ataxia clinical severity, performance on the Nine-Hole Peg Test and Box and Block Test and responses to a purpose-designed questionnaire regarding acceptability of AIM-S were recorded. Forty individuals with Friedreich ataxia and 20 control participants completed the baseline assessment. Thirty individuals with Friedreich ataxia completed the second assessment. The sensitivity of the AIM-S to detect deterioration in upper limb function was greater than other measures. Patient-reported outcomes indicated the AIM-S reflected a daily activity and was more enjoyable to complete than other assessments. The AIM-S is a more accurate, less variable measure of upper limb function in Friedreich ataxia than existing measures. The AIM-S is perceived by individuals with Friedreich ataxia to be related to everyday life and will permit individuals who are non-ambulant to be included in future clinical trials.

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Cardiomyopathy as the first manifestation of Friedreich's ataxia

This study presents the case of a female patient diagnosed in childhood with Friedreich Ataxia (FA). At the age of 6, she developed left congestive heart failure with cardiomyopathy, as evident on echocardiogram. Neurologic signs only appeared at age 7, including marked loss of muscle mass, gait instability, muscle clonus, and Babinski's signal. At age 27, she had a stroke and was hospitalized; a few days later, she had a cardiorespiratory arrest with asystole, leading to death. The autopsy disclosed severe cardiomyopathy and significant myocardial replacement with fibrosis; therefore, the cause of death was assumed to be heart failure. Compared to the literature, this case has some unique features, such as cardiac disease as the presenting manifestation instead of gait instability, which is the major initial sign in most FA cases. Since the patient was submitted to an autopsy, it was an opportunity to retrieve important data to confirm the diagnosis and to evaluate the pathophysiology of this entity, such as myocardium fibrosis and cerebellar degeneration. In summary, this case demonstrates that cardiac disease can be the first manifestation of FA, with eventual diagnostic and prognostic implications. In addition, the autopsy provided findings of severe cardiomyopathy associated with FA.

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Effects of Fe 2+/Fe 3+ Binding to Human Frataxin and Its D122Y Variant, as Revealed by Site-Directed Spin Labeling (SDSL) EPR Complemented by Fluorescence and Circular Dichroism Spectroscopies

Frataxin's actual physiological function has been debated for a long time without reaching a general agreement; however, it is commonly accepted that the protein is involved in the biosynthetic iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) machinery, and several authors have pointed out that it also participates in iron homeostasis. In this work, site-directed spin labeling coupled to electron paramagnetic resonance (SDSL EPR) is used to add new information on the effects of ferric and ferrous iron binding on the properties of human frataxin in vitro. Using SDSL EPR and relating the results to fluorescence experiments commonly performed to study iron binding to FXN, the authors produced evidence that ferric iron causes reversible aggregation without preferred interfaces in a concentration-dependent fashion, starting at relatively low concentrations (micromolar range), whereas ferrous iron binds without inducing aggregation. Moreover, our experiments show that the ferrous binding does not lead to changes of protein conformation. The data reported in this study reveal that the currently reported binding stoichiometries should be taken with caution. The use of a spin label resistant to reduction, as well as the comparison of the binding effect of Fe2+ in wild type and in the pathological D122Y variant of frataxin, allowed the characterization of the Fe2+ binding properties of different protein sites and highlight the effect of the D122Y substitution on the surrounding residues. The authors suggest that both Fe2+ and Fe3+ might play a relevant role in the context of the proposed FXN physiological functions.

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Efficacy and Tolerability of Interferon Gamma in Treatment of Friedreich's Ataxia: Retrospective Study

Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) has been shown to induce frataxin production in many cell types. In this study, the clinical features, tolerability, and the prognosis of individuals with FRDA to whom IFN-γ was administered in a university hospital were evaluated retrospectively and the results were discussed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study conducted in our country to evaluate the effect of IFN gamma on this patient group.

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Exicure Provides Neuroscience Pipeline Update at Virtual R&D Day

CHICAGO & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Exicure, Inc. (NASDAQ: XCUR), the pioneer in gene regulatory and immunotherapeutic drugs utilizing spherical nucleic acid (SNA™) technology, announced that it will host a virtual R&D Day on Thursday, January 7th, 2021 from 09:00 am to 10:30 am ET to discuss Exicure’s neuroscience pipeline, including its lead program for Friedreich’s Ataxia which has progressed into IND-enabling studies.

Exicure’s Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Susan Perlman and the CEO of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) Jennifer Farmer, will join Exicure’s leadership team in discussing the company’s progress in Friedreich’s Ataxia and its expanding neuroscience pipeline.

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