About Emily Casanova

Dr. Casanova earned her doctorate in Anatomy Science & Neurobiology from the University of Louisville’s Medical School. She is currently a Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine at Greenville, working in close conjunction with Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at Prisma Health (formerly Greenville Health System). She has research background in neurobiology, developmental biology, and some genetics, dermatopathology, and neuropathology, with particular foci on neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and connective tissue disorders like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)/Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD). Her current research foci/topics of interest include: 1) functional classification of high-risk autism genes; 2) the characterization of genomic features common to autism risk genes and those genes’ roles in the evolution of animal morphology; and 3) etiological overlap between autism and EDS/HSD. In addition to her research interests in EDS/HSD, she is also a zebra herself 🦓 and is passionate about patient advocacy.

15 responses to “About Emily Casanova

  1. Emily,
    I saw your TED Talk and teared up. I am forwarding it to all my friends who have kids with LD’s. My daughter loves Science and reads about it all the time. I will forward your Blog to her as well. She is 10, still young but I am sure she will love the articles you have written.

  2. Hi, yaminimudaliar. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site so far. Although unfortunately I’ve yet to make any TED talk, so I’m not exactly certain who you may be confusing me with. But in any case, I hope your daughter enjoys the blog! 🙂

  3. Emily,
    How can I delete one of my replies?
    The one about fundamentalist churches please, in the Copernican feed.

  4. I just read an article about your research. I am very interested as I have two children on the autism spectrum. One has Marfan like traits and I am just starting on the journey of discovery about this aspect of his health. I am looking for direction, information and any insight! I hope you respond here. Thank you

    • Hi, Janna. Marfan-like (Marfanoid) features can also occur with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). If you suspect your child has Marfanoid traits, I highly recommend you talk to his pediatrician and get a referral to a genetics clinic for testing. It’s important to rule out something like Marfan’s and the heart issues that often accompany it. hEDS can sometimes have heart issues too but they tend to be less severe than Marfan’s syndrome. In any case, it’s a good idea to see a geneticist for a clinical assessment and genetic testing. If he does get either of these diagnoses, it will be important he gets consistent check-ups on his heart (among other things of course). I’ve typically heard knowledgeable recommend an echocardiogram at least every few years for people with these hereditary connective tissue disorders. Hope the information helps! 🙂

      • Thank you. We have an eco scheduled. We’ll see where that info leads. My guy is very interested in research and has always had quite an interest in paleontology as well. It was neat reading your bio and finding similarities. If you’re in need of research subjects, it seems like he may fall into your data set.
        (We live in Virginia)

        Thank you for the reply!

      • Not too far from us! I usually post adverts for some of my research studies here on the blog, so just following the blog is an easy way to keep up. Our current study is pretty limited though because we’re studying moms of kiddoes with autism and/or ADHD who are seen by our local pediatrics clinic, so that unfortunately prevents people from outside the area joining in the study. But hopefully this is just the first of many. 🙂

  5. Hi Emily, I happened to find your blog and see you are in Greenville, SC. I’m trying to find help for my brother who lives in Greenville, SC as well. Can you recommend any treatment/testing facilities that are knowledgeable in Autism/Aspergers.? My brother is 58 and never officially diagnosed since he has extreme anxiety. He has recently lost 70 pounds (he was not overweight)and all medical tests have come back negative which is good. The doctors are suggesting a psychiatrist. I thought you may have some good information for me on where to refer him. Thank you.

    • Hi, Sally. Unfortunately I don’t get to interact with too many adults in the area and am not familiar with their services. But I will ask some of the docs/psychologists in my office who I suspect have more knowledge. Does your brother have any other symptoms, like more recent GI problems associated with the weight loss? Have they tested for diabetes? Is he on any meds that could have this effect? Has he gone to see an internist? It sounds like, even though the labs are showing within normal range, the doctor(s) is clearly missing something major. 70lb weight loss is definitely not normal, especially when said person isn’t trying to lose weight.

  6. Hi Emily!
    Our SLP shared your article with us as we have a son who is 5 with nonverbal autism. I was diagnosed with EDS-hypermobility when I was pregnant with him.
    I’m so interested to learn more about all of it!

    • Hi, Maureen! The overlap between these two conditions is of rapidly growing interest to the autism and EDS communities. Unfortunately, research has been slow to answer but I hope that will start to change over the coming years.

      I’m really glad the article resonated with your family. I usually post about new publications here on the blog, so this is a good way to follow our work for any new additions.

      Thanks for your interest!! 🙂


  7. Hi Emily. This is not about your research area, but about something else. I was reading about Covid long-haul syndrome and ran across a comment of yours on a JAMA article. I am going to copy it below, because it is an exquisite expression of something very true to my own experience. I am really grateful for this insightful, clear, and compassionate comment amid a sea of ignorance and dismissiveness. I have been severely disabled by ME/CFS since 2004, and I’m having such complicated feelings about the sudden interest in post-Covid syndrome. I live in Philadelphia (big research region), but I’ve never had a doctor to treat my ME/CFS. It’s been a long, lonely journey. And now it appears at first glance that I won’t be given access to the rehabilitation clinics springing up for post-Covid syndrome. So I’m having a bit of a resurgence of my trauma. But I’m also beginning to allow myself to hope that I may at last be able to get access to some kind of knowledgeable care. If you know anything about this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Meanwhile, here is your beautiful comment from JAMA:

    September 24, 2020
    Postviral syndromes are not new
    Emily Casanova, PhD, Biomedical Science | University of South Carolina
    The recognition of postviral syndromes is not new to the chronic illness community and the clinicians who treat them and scientists who study them, nor is the extreme sex-skewed nature of these conditions. While an endotheliopathy may indeed be an important consideration, the extreme sex-skewed nature of this particular postviral syndrome suggests that, like its idiopathic counterparts, differences in immune activation between the sexes are likely key in many cases. For instance, innate immune/autoimmune disorders are often triggered by viral infection, severe injury, surgery, pregnancy, and even severe emotional stress. Therefore, viewing this postviral syndrome under the framework of other syndromes such as ME/CFS, POTS, MCAD, etc., could still be useful to clinicians and scientists studying this subpopulation, at least during early days. Most of these idiopathic conditions are not considered primary disorders anyways and are undoubtedly very heterogeneous in nature, but they are useful labels that help direct patient care and predict outcomes.

    On a separate note to clinicians, please be cautious about psychosomaticizing patients presenting with these symptoms as gas-lighting has the potential to cause significant harm to the patient that cannot be easily undone, both in terms of psychological trauma (many chronically ill patients suffer from medically-induced PTSD) and additional harm due to potentially inaccurate/incomplete psychiatric diagnoses that can follow a patient on her/his chart for years, permanently affecting her/his quality of care in future. This is an extremely common problem for many women, in particular, with chronic illnesses that we as clinicians and scientists need to take even greater caution to avoid.

    As with many immune disorders, immune modulators can have significant neuroactive effects (e.g., febrile seizures as an extreme example, the result of IL-1 activity) and anxiety/depression can often be symptomatic of these chronic medical conditions. Therefore, we need to be cautious about interpreting these psychiatric symptoms as causal. Likewise, peripheral nerve damage is a common feature in these chronic conditions, which research suggests may have a lower threshold for excitation in reaction to neuromodulators than the healthy nerve. Therefore, physical symptoms may be easily top-down “neuroreactive” but not truly “psychosomatic.” The pathology is still within the peripheral tissues, not the result of a psychiatric disorder.

    In addition, any person who has suddenly lost her/his health, mobility, etc., would be pathological if she/he were NOT devastated and over-focused on her/his sudden disability. This is a normal, healthy reaction to a major and traumatic loss.

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