About Elane Kim
Elane studied the effect of a cytotoxic cancer drug on loss of taste, a common side effect of chemotherapy, and she found one potential cause. She identified a pattern of proliferation in the stem cells in the taste buds that become taste receptor cells. This pattern of overall growth decreased in response to chemotherapy, resulting in a loss of taste. Elane hopes that by understanding the cause we may one day have a treatment.
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Elane Kim, 18, of Walnut Creek, studied the effect of a cytotoxic cancer drug on the loss of taste, a common side effect of chemotherapy, for her Regeneron Science Talent Search medicine and health project. The tongue’s taste buds hold receptor cells (TRCs), which convey the sense of taste. Elane began her project by analyzing specialized microscopic images of immunofluorescent stained tissues from the part of the taste bud where TRCs proliferate from stem cells. She observed that TRC stem cells naturally grow in uneven patterns. Elane then studied how the location and stages of early TRC stem cells changed in response to a cancer drug associated with loss of taste and found that the cells’ overall growth decreased in response to chemotherapy, regardless of where the cells were located in the taste bud papillae.
Elane attends Stanford University Online High School in Redwood City. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Gaia Literary Magazine, which focuses on environmental activism, and editor-in-chief of The Chrysalis, the school’s literary magazine. The daughter of Ann Kim, Elane is a published, award-winning author of poetry and short stories and in 2022 was named a Davidson Fellow in Literature.
Beyond the Project
Elane received a stipend to research taste stem cells at Stanford Medical School and was selected to present her work at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Research Symposium, where she won best oral presentation.
FUN FACTS: Elane, an award-winning writer of poetry and prose, loves science fiction, especially works by Ursula K. Le Guin, Ted Chiang and Weike Wang.