Greenwood researchers discover reaction in autism cells - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Greenwood researchers discover reaction in autism cells

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GREENWOOD, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Marcus Tomas and his family remember the day they heard the word autism. 

"A lot of people that are diagnosed with that don't really know what that entails, and that's how it was with us," Tomas said.

He and his wife, Melissa Tomas, quickly learned autism is a developmental disorder that affects social and communications skills. He said he first noticed a delay in those skills when his son, Braxton Tomas, was a year old.

"We're very proud of Braxton when he reaches his goals," he said.

Braxton, now 5 years old, often goes to the Greenwood Genetic Center for therapy sessions. And it's also where researchers recently discovered what they're calling novel in autism research.

"This is very rewarding to make a discovery that can benefit people in South Carolina as well as people outside of South Carolina," Dr. Charles Schwartz said.

Schwartz is the director of research at the center. He, along with others, discovered it's harder for those with autism to utilize the amino acid tryptophan than those who don't have autism.

"We were looking at the whole cell and how the cell actually metabolizes rather than looking at the genes individually," Schwartz said.

He said people get tryptophan through food, and it's a building block for other essentials in the body. Schwartz said usually autism research is done by looking for genetic or chromosome mutations.

"In the future, we may be able to asses those pathways and maybe tailor treatments to the individual," Schwartz said.

And the Tomas family said that could mean everything when it comes to therapy for Braxton Tomas.

Researches said they want to stress the study wasn't used to determine diagnostic procedures. They said cells used in the study came from those who were already diagnosed with autism. But they said in the future, hopefully their findings could lead to blood tests and other screenings.

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