Project HOPING TO TREAT MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

June-Ho has long been intrigued by diseases--in particular, he says, "by the way they work and their effect on populations." He can't wait to get his MD and begin treating diseases, but until then he does what he can. He participates actively in outreach and fund-raising efforts to fight widespread diseases such as measles in Africa and hepatitis B in Asia, for example.

kim project
Prion/antibody blind prediction performed by Michael Daily at Johns Hopkins. The colors represent the prediction (red) and the experimental position (green). Ryan's pH calculations will improve protein docking simulations.
As a sophomore, he adds, "I became fascinated by the nervous system and its amazingly complex processes." And that led to his research on multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain affliction suffered by some 2 million people worldwide. MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system somehow mistakes a person's own brain cells as foreign invaders. So immune cells attack neurons and damage their myelin, a substance essential to sending signals from the brain to muscles and vital organs.

June-Ho worked with a model of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). He discovered that certain antibodies, such as anti-CD44, have the ability to inhibit EAE. The antibodies, he theorized, must be curtailing the proliferation of immune system T cells in the brain. That would reduce levels of cytokine, the protein that T cells secrete to attack (supposedly) foreign cells. Ooops. To his surprise, June-Ho found that anti-CD44 did just the opposite: It promoted the release of cytokine. So the antibodies must be reducing MS symptoms through another, as yet unknown mechanism. That just whets June-Ho's determination to figure out how.


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COMMENTS On The Issues

Alternative Energy: A recent issue of Scientific American detailed the production of alternative energy, especially for automobiles, and the progress is promising. However, environmental issues are of concern because research will not be curing a problem but rather cleaning up our mess.

Environment: Governmental policies are integral to improving the environment, but current policies are not very positive.

Cloning: I am supportive of stem cell research because of the nature of the research, though it is commonly and somewhat mistakenly grouped with cloning. Stem cell research has been taking large strides forwards in recent years. With recent innovations in stem cell research in the treatment of juvenile diabetes, it is clear that the next line of cures will arise from stem cells. On the other hand, I see no palpable, immediate benefits of cloning vertebrates except for personal vindication or veneration. Thus, until I do, I am not supportive of cloning actual animals and humans.

Where would the extra R&D funds come from? First and foremost, the government has an obligation to allocate funds to research and development. It is my belief that research should be done with the end goal of improving the quality of life (health rather than amenities) for humans while minimizing stress on the environment. Thus, more funding for alternative energy sources, medicine, environmental protection, and basic research will be a real investment in our future. Just the leaps and bounds in basic research in recent years are promising in aiding people ailing from infectious (and societal) diseases.

Since it is an investment, it would be justified by the long-term benefits. Unfortunately, public opinion probably would not support allocation of taxes for extra R&D funding. If the government were to require a certain percentage of revenues (such as medicinal drug sales) to be re-invested into R&D funding, that would pull in additional funding.

INTEL SCIENCE SEARCH FINALIST June-Ho Kim

June-Ho Kim


Essay:

Energy: The Crisis Hits Home


Monta Vista High School
Cupertino, Calif.


Hobbies: Piano, debating, community service


Ambition: Medicine — pediatrics or neurology