Name: Katie Hancock
From: Phoenix, AZ
Discovering the Genetic Basis of Addiction
2020 Scholarship Essay for Seasons of Malibu On
The Genetic Basis of Addiction
By Katie Hancock
My ultimate career goal is to become a genetic counselor to help people fight addiction. There are cutting edge scientific methods to help addicts recover and live happier, healthier lives. I want to be one of the people, who on graduation, help people with addiction with better science. I am starting as a Biotechnology Major in Spring 2021 as an entering transfer student at Arizona State University.
I believe the increasing rate of addiction in the United States is partly based on genetic mutations that have not been sufficiently studied. While continuing to develop therapies based on psychology, it is time to use recent scientific tools from DNA sequencing to tackle this epidemic of addiction.
The big breakthrough in human knowledge that made all this possible was the Human Genome Project. This international effort lasted from 1990 to 2003 and cost $2.7 Billion US Dollars in 1991 terms. Scientists in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and China all took part. The project was headed by Nobel Prize Winner James Watson who with Francis Crick determined the essential double helix nature of DNA. The project was successful in sequencing an entire human genome. James Watson presented the complete sequence of his personal genome in 2007 which he said was the first genome sequenced for less than $1 million US Dollars.
The project identified genes associated with genetic conditions such as:
X-linked Immune Disorder
Fragile X Syndrome
The next step will be an in-depth study of the genetic cause of addiction.
According to the NiH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, the first complete human genome cost $150 Million in 2003. As referenced above, it cost $1 Million for James Watson to sequence his own genome in 2007In 2015, Carol Jean Saunders of the NIH published a cost of $7,666 for the same process. The National Human Genome Research Institute used a figure of $4,000 for mid-2015 and less than $1,000 in 2015 for a Whole Exome Sequence.
This is a cost level at $1,000 that health insurance companies and Medicaid and Medicare can afford to help everyone.
Step 1: Identify the genetic mutations that make certain people susceptible to addiction.
Step 2: Perform a $1,000 per person DNA sequence on individuals struggling with addiction.
Step 3: Develop a CRISPR treatment to support those individuals with a healthier genome.
This has been called the time of personalized medicine. We may very well find that different people with addiction have different genetic mutations from each other. No longer do we need to have medicine treat people as one size fits all.
The science of and technology of genetic medicine is real and it is here now. In order for the benefit to be gained by millions of people, thousands of genetic counselors and other professionals will need to be trained. I hope that I am awarded this scholarship so that I can be one of those professionals.