Elizabeth Varley

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Publications (3)18.26 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Friedreich ataxia (FA) is the most common ataxia and results from an expanded GAA repeat in the first intron of FXN. This leads to epigenetic modifications and reduced frataxin. We investigated the relationships between genetic, epigenetic, and clinical parameters in a large case-control study of FA. Clinical data and samples were obtained from individuals with FA during annual visits to our dedicated FA clinic. GAA expansions were evaluated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction endonuclease digest. DNA methylation was measured using bisulfite-based EpiTYPER MassARRAY (Sequenom, San Diego, CA). FXN expression was determined using real-time reverse transcriptase PCR. Significant correlations between the different parameters were examined using the nonparametric Spearman rank correlation coefficient, as well as univariate and multivariate regression modeling. Characteristic DNA methylation was identified upstream and downstream of the expansion, and validated in an independent FA cohort. Univariate and multivariate analyses showed significant inverse correlations between upstream methylation and FXN expression, and variation in downstream methylation and age of onset. FXN expression also inversely correlated with the Friedreich Ataxia Rating Scale score, an indicator of disease severity. These novel findings provide compelling evidence for the link between the GAA expansion, the DNA methylation profile, FXN expression, and clinical outcome in FA. Epigenetic profiling of FXN could be used to gain greater insight into disease onset and progression, but also as a biomarker to learn more about specific treatment responses and pharmacological mechanism(s). This work also highlights the potential for developing therapies aimed at increasing frataxin levels to treat this debilitating disease.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Annals of Neurology
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    ABSTRACT: As the results of the Human Genome Project are realised, screening for genetic mutations that predispose to preventable disease is becoming increasingly possible. How and where such screening should best be offered are critical, unanswered questions. This study aimed to assess the acceptability and feasibility of genetic screening for preventable disease, using the model of hereditary haemochromatosis, in high-school students. Screening was offered for the HFE C282Y substitution to 17,638 students. Questionnaires were administered at the time of screening (Q1) and approximately 1 month after results were communicated (Q2). Outcomes assessed were uptake of screening, change in scores of validated anxiety, affect and health perception scales from Q1 to Q2, knowledge and iron indices in C282Y homozygous individuals. A total of 5757 (32.6%) students had screening and 28 C282Y-homozygous individuals (1 in 206) were identified, and none of the 27 individuals who had iron indices measures had significant iron overload. There was no significant change in measures of anxiety, affect or health perception in C282Y homozygous or non-homozygous individuals. Over 86% of students answered each of five knowledge questions correctly at Q1. Genetic population-based screening for a preventable disease can be offered in schools in a way that results in minimal morbidity for those identified at high risk of disease. The results of this study are not only relevant for haemochromatosis, but for other genetic markers of preventable disease such as those for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · European journal of human genetics: EJHG
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    ABSTRACT: Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), most often due to HFE C282Y homozygosity, is an iron overload disorder that can result in severe morbidity including hepatic cirrhosis. Predisposition to HH is easily diagnosed and morbidity is preventable by maintaining normal body iron and thus calls have been made to introduce community screening. The current study has been designed to assess the acceptability and feasibility of HH screening in high schools. Students (mostly 15-16 years of age) watched a purpose-designed DVD for education about HH. Those with parental consent were then offered cheek-brush screening for C282Y. Students completed a questionnaire prior to screening. The program was offered to 9187 students at 32 schools and 3489 (38%) had screening. Nineteen C282Y homozygotes (1 in 183) and 376 heterozygotes (1 in 9.3) were identified. More than 90% of students answered each of five knowledge questions correctly. Eight homozygotes (42%) had elevated transferrin saturation, but only two (10.5%) had marginally elevated serum ferritin (SF). We have shown that genetic screening for HH can successfully be offered in the high school setting. Ongoing research in this study will answer questions about the impact of high school students learning that they are at risk of HH.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2009 · Clinical Genetics