Friedreich's ataxia: clinical features, pathogenesis and management

Br Med Bull. 2017 Dec 1;124(1):19-30. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldx034.


Introduction: Friedreich's ataxia is the most common inherited ataxia.

Sources of data: Literature search using PubMed with keywords Friedreich's ataxia together with published papers known to the authors.

Areas of agreement: The last decade has seen important advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of disease. In particular, the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying the disease now offer promising novel therapeutic targets.

Areas of controversy: The search for effective disease-modifying agents continues. It remains to be determined whether the most effective approach to treatment lies with increasing frataxin protein levels or addressing the metabolic consequences of the disease, for example with antioxidants.

Areas timely for developing research: Management of Freidreich's ataxia is currently focussed on symptomatic management, delivered by the multidisciplinary team. Phase II clinical trials in agents that address the abberrant silencing of the frataxin gene need to be translated into large placebo-controlled Phase III trials to help establish their therapeutic potential.

Keywords: Friedreich’s ataxia; antioxidants; epigenetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Cardiomyopathies / drug therapy
  • Cardiomyopathies / genetics
  • Cardiomyopathies / physiopathology
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Disease Progression
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Frataxin
  • Friedreich Ataxia / drug therapy*
  • Friedreich Ataxia / metabolism
  • Friedreich Ataxia / mortality
  • Friedreich Ataxia / physiopathology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Antioxidants
  • Iron-Binding Proteins