Interview with Ian Shelton, RMMSC's Undergraduate Research Experience Scholar

 

In this issue of eMS news, we hear from Ian Shelton. Ian is the recipient of our inaugural Rocky Mountain MS Center Undergraduate Research Experience Scholarship. He is working with the research team at the RMMSC at University of Colorado.

 


 

Ian sheltonIan, please tell us about yourself.

I’m a Colorado native - I grew up here and went to Regis High School in Aurora. Now I’m attending college at Claremont McKenna in California. I’m studying pre-Med and business, playing soccer, and hoping to go to medical school after next year.

Several years ago, my aunt was diagnosed with brain cancer and I became very interested in the neurological aspects of becoming a doctor. MS is particularly interesting to me since researchers are learning more and more about the disease every day. It’s really great to be here at the Rocky Mountain MS Center and to be a part of the cutting edge research that is happening.

What research project are you working on right now?

I’m working with Drs. John Corboy and Enrique Alvarez looking at cells that are positive for proteins to help determine if someone has MS or not. For some reason this particular protein has been up-regulated (or increased) in MS patients, so we’re trying to find a novel biomarker that would enable us to distinguish MS from other neuro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases.

This is important because MS is such a heterogeneous disease and it’s very hard to figure out whether someone has MS or not. We have to go off so many different kinds of criteria, and if we could find one protein in the body that was up-regulated it might be able to tell us with more certainty that this person has MS. The ability to diagnose people earlier and with more certainty would make such a difference in terms of getting on treatment earlier.

So, we’re teaming up with the researchers in the Pharmacology Department who are looking at Type 1 diabetes. We have a bunch of samples already, and we are trying to compare levels in a variety of settings and trying to learn more about these biomarkers such as how they change with treatment and in siblings and children of MS patients. We’re also looking at pregnant women because the risk of MS goes down during pregnancy so we’re looking at potential variable there to see if a certain gene or biomarker is responsible. Making progress in early diagnosis would make a big impact for patients and their families.

What have been the most impactful parts of your internship so far?

It’s been really amazing to go through chart review. It has given me an even greater sense of what the person is going through and how much having MS impacts their life. Seeing how patients were doing in their initial visits, then how things have changed for them over the years after they’ve been on the treatment is so helpful and encouraging.

It’s an honor to receive this scholarship – to help out with such a meaningful project and to be around so many incredible doctors. They’re amazing people with so much to offer and I am learning an enormous amount from them. It’s inspiring to be here every day and to see first-hand all of the extraordinary work that these doctors do - how much they help everyone in the clinic and how much they benefit the patients’ lives. I hope that one day I’ll be able to do the same thing and have that same kind of impact on people’s lives.