Yunfeng Lu, a scientist and professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, in addition to being a self-proclaimed “wine enthusiast,” has announced plans to develop a new hangover pill, after a prototype he developed proved successful on test mice, cutting their blood-alcohol levels in half in a period of four hours.
The pill was developed using natural enzymes
In an article Lu himself wrote for The Conversation, he noted that current treatments for alcohol overdose heavily rely on the body’s own enzymes to break down alcohol; Using this information, he decided to develop capsules filled with three natural enzymes, which convert alcohol into harmless molecules that are then excreted and can usually be found in liver cells to help the body process alcohol faster. While this might seem simple enough, with the enzymes being naturally occurring, the main issue was finding a simple and safe play of inserting them into the body.
Working with his colleagues, professor Cheng Ji, an expert in liver diseases from Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Duo Xu, Lu’s own graduate student, he developed a remedy and tested in on mice. As mentioned, a priority for the pill was developing it in a way that they could be inserted in the body safely, so in order to protect the enzymes, they are wrapped up each of them in a shell using material that has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Essentially nanocapsules, they are injected into the veins of drunk mice, traveling through their circulatory system until they reach the liver, where they help digest alcohol.
What were the benefits of the drug prototype?
As mentioned above, mice that were given the injections saw their blood alcohol level decrease by 45% in just four hours when compared to mice that did not receive the treatment.
In addition, the blood concentration of acetaldehyde, a toxic, carcinogenic compound, was also extremely low in these mice, which could reduce chances of headaches and vomiting in these mice, a benefit that Lu hopes could make the prototype popular.
Added to that, the mice who were given the treatment were also found to have woken up faster than the untreated mice and should also protect the liver from stress and damage caused by alcohol.
Lu confirmed, however, that more studies were needed to confirm whether or not there were negative consequences to the pill. If the treatments prove successful, tests involving human patients could start as early as a year from now.
As Lu warned, however, the “hangover pill” won’t really prevent people from going consuming alcohol too much but would only help them recover quickly, ending on a note that it’s important for people to drink responsibly.