If you’ve heard about Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, you can remember how he used classical conditioning in the 1890s. He notices that his dogs salivated whenever he was around since they associated him with feeding time.
He then realized that other stimuli, such as electric shock and buzzer had the same automatic response.
A century later, scientists are trying to use this conditioning phenomenon – not to get reaction, such as salivation – to influence the immune system and possibly save many lives.
Less Side Effects and Drug Expenses
It’s no secret that medicines these days are often very pricey. Plus, most of them have unwanted side effects that can even be detrimental to a patient’s health. This is why a certain study conducted in 1996 has stirred the interests of several scientists today. The small study had the following details:
- It involved Robert Ader, a scientist who mixed Cytoxan with syrup that tasted like anise. Note that Cytoxan is an autoimmune disease drug that can cause severe side effects and is even labeled as toxic.
- He gave the concoction to 10 rats with multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune condition.
- Later, Ader gave the syrup with a placebo pill. Out of the 10 animals, eight of them had immunosuppression. What this means is that their bodies may have associated the syrup with Cytoxan. So what happened next is that even though they were given a placebo pill, their bodies thought that they were taking the autoimmune drug.
One case involved an 11-year-old whose psychologist and pediatrician tried Ader’s methodology. Marette Flies was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that kills the healthy tissues of the body. Two years later after the diagnosis, she was taking a lot of drugs from barbiturates to steroids to diuretics. Then, her doctors gave her Cytoxan, but it was slowly killing her. That’s when her psychologist and Ader stepped in and gave her placebo that contained cod liver oil and rose perfume, which her body associated with the toxic Cytoxan. To everyone’s surprise, she responded well to the treatment as if she was really taking the medication.
So far, this methodology is still being tested, but there are scientists who believe that this particular principle could be useful in helping patients who are suffering from autoimmune diseases that are non-life-threatening, such as arthritis and asthma. It may prove to be successful in the coming years and scientists are also hoping that there would be conditioning regimes for patients who have cancer and those who underwent organ transplant.