Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is caused by a GAA repeat expansion in the FXN gene leading to reduced expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. Recombinant human erythropoietin (rhuEPO) is suggested to increase frataxin levels, alter mitochondrial function and improve clinical scores in FRDA patients. Aim of the present pilot study was to investigate mitochondrial metabolism of skeletal muscle tissue in FRDA patients and examine effects of rhuEPO administration by phosphorus 31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P MRS). Seven genetically confirmed FRDA patients underwent 31P MRS of the calf muscles using a rest-exercise-recovery protocol before and after receiving 3000 IU of rhuEPO for eight weeks. FRDA patients showed more rapid phosphocreatine (PCr) depletion and increased accumulation of inorganic phosphate (Pi) during incremental exercise as compared to controls. After maximal exhaustive exercise prolonged regeneration of PCR and slowed decline in Pi can be seen in FRDA. PCr regeneration as hallmark of mitochondrial ATP production revealed correlation to activity of complex II/III of the respiratory chain and to demographic values. PCr and Pi kinetics were not influenced by rhuEPO administration. Our results confirm mitochondrial dysfunction and exercise intolerance due to impaired oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle tissue of FRDA patients. MRS did not show improved mitochondrial bioenergetics after eight weeks of rhuEPO exposition in skeletal muscle tissue of FRDA patients.
Trial registration: EU Clinical Trials Register2008-000040-13.