How to cure disease without drugs?
Many diseases, terrifies the people of the past, now almost forgotten. Doctors quickly coped with them as soon changed conspiracies, bloodletting and doubtful, and even dangerous drugs (such as mercury) on scientifically proven methods and drugs. However, the men in white coats are still a lot of work, and soon they may again revise some of its treatment guidelines. And in favor of a completely unexpected direction.
Agree with nerves
In April 2014, the U.S. agency DARPA announced the creation of the Department of Biological Technologies. Landmark event, given the specificity of the agency. His mission – to look ahead further than others and turn fantasy into reality. In one project, the department intends to develop the technology of brain stimulation, to correct nerve damage (from depression to chronic pain). Project SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology For Emerging Therapies) is remarkable in that expressly disclaims attempts medication. DARPA experts chose a different path, where exposures are not chemical properties of cells and their mode of electrical activity, the stimulation parameters should depend on the response of neurons. In fact it is a direct dialogue with the nervous system.
In medicine, electrical stimulation is applied than a decade, and this method sometimes brings success where drugs are powerless. Sending a signal through the electrodes deep in the brain, can not start the recovery process even in patients in a state of minimal consciousness, as reported in 2007, researchers of the neurology department at Cornell University Medical College. It is like waking up: a man begins to move, eat independently and talking. In this way, trying to help people suffering from depression, obesity and Parkinson’s disease. But technology has one crucial drawback – you have to open the skull. So widespread it receives. It would be great to find a more gentle way to affect the nervous system, while avoiding the side effects of pharmaceuticals. In other words, come up with a treatment without drugs and without traumatic intervention into the body. But does it really?
Treatment without medication
In search of an answer should refer to research Fabrizio Benedetti, a neuroscientist at the University of Turin. This is one of the leading experts purposefully studying the effects of placebo and in his experiments he uses deep brain stimulation. As therapy suffering from Parkinson’s disease to the subthalamic nuclei fed electrical impulses. This reduces excessive neuronal activity in a given sector and leads to improved health and movements of the patient. However Benedetti before starting stimulation did patients injected, convincing them that introduces an effective cure. But in fact, normal saline was administered to patients, the medical “pacifier” with no medicinal properties. Moreover, the electrode inserted into the brain was not used for pacing, but only for reading cell activity. The experimental result was completely unexpected. After injection, patients began to move more easily, and their level of arousal in the subthalamic nuclei decreased as if they received a series of pulses. Somehow the brain independently normalized operation in response to fiction. So the first time scientists were able to register the placebo effect on the level of individual neurons.
Today, such effects can not be taken lightly. As it turned out, as a placebo can act not only dummy pill or illusion of electrical stimulation, but also imaginary surgery. Prestigious journal The New England Journal of Medicine has repeatedly published articles that imitation washing knee has the same positive effect as the real arthroscopy: patients get rid of arthritis.
Some medications do not get to the official sales because in the preliminary tests are no better than placebo. But this active substance, developed by experts for a specific biochemical function. Here we encounter an unexpected phenomenon – the body’s ability to run its process of recovery through the psyche. It does not always work, and its capabilities are limited. But their real limit is not known reliably.
Let me give a risky prediction: medicine will be based on the management of self-healing mechanisms. At least a portion of violations. Doctors learn to conduct mediated dialogue with the nervous system, choosing the right incentives in each case. Placebo – it’s not just something inert, it starts a cascade in human biochemical changes, including endocrine, immune and nervous systems. That is why the study of placebo effects now paying serious attention. Having studied the phenomenon at a fundamental level, might be able to find a way to strengthen its multiple.
The scenario follows the idea of the famous psychologist Nicholas Humphrey of Darwin College, Cambridge. He suggests that most of human history, doctors and healers worked just due to the placebo effect. Their recipes have very little relevance to the physiological component of disease. Nevertheless, even absurd methods gave some positive effect. Humphrey identifies “health management system” as part of the overall management of homeostasis. The operation of this system gradually, in the course of cultural evolution has become dependent on the fact of the presence of doctors, medicines and procedures. But all this time it acts spontaneously, by itself. Science will take it under control and significantly increase its capacity and capabilities, although, of course, patients will not cram mercury or magical potions. However, future treatments may seem to us far more strange.
The proposed mechanisms of placebo
Placebo can reduce pain by opioid or narcotic effects of expectations and / or conditioned reflex mechanisms. Opioids produced by the body can have an inhibitory effect on the respiratory centers. The sympathetic nervous system of the heart, which distinguishes adrenaline can also be suppressed for the analgesic effect of placebo, although the mechanism is unknown (reducing the pain itself and / or corrective action of opioids). Cholecystokinin antagonizing the effect of endogenous opioids, thereby reducing the response to placebo. Placebo may also affect the release of serotonin in the pituitary and adrenal glands, simulating the effect of some painkillers.
Fabrizio Benedetti, a professor of neurophysiology and human physiology department of Neurosciences University of Turin Medical School:
“The public is interested in the placebo effect, because it promises to expand our understanding of the opportunities within the inner man. Scientists – because beliefs influence human behavior promises opportunities to study internal control emotional, sensory and peripheral processes. Placebo study is essentially a consideration of how the context of beliefs and values forms the brain processes emotions and perceptions and ultimately affect the mental and physical health. Modern neuroscience exploring the idea that the subjective expectations and values have certain physiological basis, which may have a significant impact on the thinking, motor processes and internal homeostasis. “