Our first project aims to explore ways in which the placebo mechanisms can be exploited to improve access to medicine. This project has two key streams: research and implementation.
We will begin by conducting a proof of concept study. For this we will explore the conditioned placebo effect and how it relates to a non-fatal condition i.e. chronic pain. This will allow us to investigate the potential of our approach, without putting people at risk. Following the successful outcome of this study, we will work with government bodies and NGOs to implement the treatment plan and make it available to all.
The treatment plan is subject to change, as our research progresses, but currently we intend to issue pain-reducing medication for 5 days, followed by a placebo for 2 days. Following the conditioned placebo model, we should expect to see a continuation of therapeutic effects during the placebo phase. Different study groups will receive different lengths of conditioning period from 0-5 days. Each patient will be asked to rate their pain levels throughout the experiment. These ratings will be compared across the experimental groups.
Following the completion of this first study, we would endeavour to explore the potential of neuroimmune conditioning for diseases with higher-risk and more measurable output. Due to the increased risk to patients, it is likely that first these tests would need to be carried out on animal models (please note that this would be done to the highest ethical standards available). The first tests on neuroimmune conditioning were in fact undertaken on rodent models of lupus, with promising effect.
Malaria is a huge problem in many developing countries. Whilst mosquito nets have proven to have significant impact, preventative medication is also strongly beneficial. Therefore, a potential area to explore could be anti-malarial medication. This would however certainly need to be conducted in animal models first.
Of greater potential impact would be treatment of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is treated with anti-biotics and as we would not want to create resistant infection, this would need to be planned carefully.
Over the coming months, we intend to undertake a comprehensive review of the potential targets in this regard, balancing patient risk, access to affordable medicine and similarities to previous research conducted on neuroimmune conditioning.