For as large a role as it plays in modern medicine -- from testing to treatment -- the mechanics of the placebo effect remain a remarkably ill-understood mystery. A team of researchers at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School may have just had a break in the case, though. According to a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers have identified the first ever genetic difference between patients who respond to placeboes and patients who don't. Finding a genetic marker for the placebo effect might impact how some diseases are treated, but its real value could be in revolutionizing the way clinical trials are conducted and new drugs are approved for use.
We're getting better at understanding how our bodies and minds work every day, but one key factor binding both together remains a mystery. For all our new understanding of genetics, nanotechnology, and other new treatments, the placebo effect remains a mystery to us -- and a powerful one at that. Biology and mathematics researchers at the University of Bristol have published the results of a series of mathematical models that give some weight to the theory that the placebo effect is an evolutionary adaptation -- the result of our bodies' immune systems not running at full speed all the time to conserve energy.