Antidote for alcohol intoxication on the horizon - researchers

By Cassandra Mason

The findings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology. Photo / Thinkstock
The findings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology. Photo / Thinkstock

A recent scientific discovery could lead to an antidote for alcohol intoxication, researchers believe.

Yunfeng Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his colleagues have created a nanocapsule containing two complementary enzymes which speed up the elimination of alcohol from the body.

Their findings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The capsule's contents essentially process alcohol the way the liver does.

Mr Lu, the principal investigator, said the enzyme combination could be ingested as a pill, chemically altering alcohol in the digestive system, even as the liver does its work. "The pill acts in a way extremely similar to the way your liver does," Mr Lu said.

"With further research, this discovery could be used as a preventative measure or antidote for alcohol intoxication."

Traditionally, natural enzymes in the body often work together to transform molecules or eliminate toxins.

The study brought together two of these enzymes to mimic the natural process.

One of these enzymes promoted the oxidisation of alcohol but also produced hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic. To offset this, Mr Lu's team placed alongside it another type of enzyme, which decomposes hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.

In tandem, the two enzymes effectively removed alcohol, the researchers found.

The enzymes were then placed in a polymer capsule only one nanometre thick - about 100,000 thinner than a strand of human hair - for protection, permitting the enzymes to freely enter alcohol molecules together.

The nanocapsule was tested on a mouse to see how well the "antidote" would work following alcohol consumption.

The results showed the blood levels in mice that were tested with the nanocapsule fell much quicker than those that were not.

Blood levels in the antidote group were found to be 15.8 per cent lower than the control group after 45 minutes, 26. 1 per cent lower after 90 minutes and 34.7 per cent lower after three hours.

"Considering the vast library of enzymes that are currently or potentially available, novel classes of enzyme nanocomplexes could be built for a broad range of applications," the researchers said.

- nzherald.co.nz

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