SC research partnership could soon produce Autism test - - Columbia, South Carolina |

SC research partnership could soon produce Autism screening test

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South Carolina is well on its way to becoming a national leader in Autism and genetic research.

Autism affects roughly one in 88 children. Now research through a partnership between Clemson University and Self Regional Hospital could soon produce an Autism screening test.

It wasn't long after Ryleigh Shenal joined the world that her family found out she would face some unique challenges for the rest of her life.

"Our hope is that she will walk, maybe say a word or two," said Jodi, her mother.

Ryleigh has chromosome deletion and her big brother Tyler also has autism.

"I don't mean to brag, but I'm really smart," Tyler said. "I have high functioning which makes you smart."

While neither Tyler nor Ryleigh's conditions have any cure, the mysteries hidden within their DNA and genetic code is slowly being unraveled by researchers at the Greenwood Genetic Center.

"The goal is to create a screening test to determine if an individual has autism or not," said Dr. Steve Skinner, director at the Greenwood Genetic Center. "We're looking to try and treat it at the basic biochemical level so if we can identify it earlier, we can provide treatment to alter lives and changes lives for the patient."

As for Ryleigh, doctors hope the planned expansion of the center will lead to fresh discoveries and result in more clinical trials for a variety of conditions, including hers.

"The more we look at one illness, the more we realize how it connects with other disorders," Skinner said. "Even though we're looking at genes involved with intellectual disability, there's a lot of overlap with cancer and heart disease."

The Shenal family maintains hope that a genetic research breakthrough to improve the quality of life for Ryleigh could be around the coroner.

"I really think one day it will go away," Tyler said.

Clemson University will receive close to $6 million from self regional healthcare over the next three years. The collaboration also means the university will soon offer a human genetic research program and it will expand the school's PH.D. programs.

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