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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

South Carolina: Researcher wins Early Career Award to Study Communication Abilities of Mothers who Carry the FMR1 Premutation

Communication sciences and disorders (COMD) associate professor Dr. Jessica Klusek University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, has received an Early Career R21 Award from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. She will use the three-year, $440K grant to advance her research on the FMR1 premutation, a fairly common (1 in 151 females carry it) yet understudied genetic mutation associated with a range of mental, cognitive, and physical health risks.

Dr. Klusek’s research focuses on communication disorders associated with autism and fragile X syndrome — the most common cause of inherited disability and the most common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorder. Her expertise in these areas is the result of 13 years of education and training, including a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in UofSC’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Research Lab before joining the COMD department in 2016.

In 2018, UofSC and two other universities were awarded $3.1 million to better understand fragile X syndrome. Dr. Klusek and her colleagues are using the five-year Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development grant to study teens with the condition as they transition into adulthood. With her Early Career Award, Dr. Klusek will expand her research to better understand communication features associated with the FMR1 premutation.

“Until recently, it was mistakenly believed that premutation carriers were ‘silent’ carriers who showed no clinical effects besides the risk of passing the mutated gene to their children, which can cause fragile X syndrome,” Dr. Klusek says.

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