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It speeds up how quickly our bodies process alcohol

Mike Pomranz
May 11, 2018

Tons of purported hangover cures have been introduced over the years, and they all have one thing in common: They don't work. But clearly, people still need hangover cures, so scientists are still out there looking for them. And every now and again, we get good news. This week, Yunfend Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UCLA, offered just such promise. “Although our thirst for alcohol dates back to the Stone Age, nobody has figured out a good way to deal with the ensuing hangover after getting drunk,” he wrote for The Conversation. “As a chemical engineering professor and wine enthusiast, I felt I needed to find a solution.”

What makes Lu and the rest of his team’s work different is that they set out to create an alcohol “antidote”—something that directly treats intoxication by helping the body process alcohol quicker. “Inspired by the body’s approach for breaking down alcohol, we chose three natural enzymes that convert alcohol into harmless molecules that are then excreted,” he continued. “That might sound simple, because these enzymes were not new, but the tricky part was to figure out a safe, effective way to deliver them to the liver.”

Their current solution involved wrapping the enzymes in an FDA-approved shell and then injecting these tiny “pills” directly into the bloodstream… not of humans, but of mice. Good news for those mice, though: According to their study, published in the journal Advanced Material, mice that received the injections saw alcohol levels drop 45 percent faster, had lower levels of the headache and nausea causing alcohol byproduct acetaldehyde, and even woke up earlier.

“We are currently completing tests to ensure that our nanocapsules are safe and don’t trigger unexpected or dangerous side effects,” Lu wrote. “If our treatments prove effective in animals, we could begin human clinical trials in as early as one year.” 

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