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Nanotech 'sober pill' could one day de-drunk you

Newly developed nanocapsules could one day deliver alcohol-digesting enzymes into a person's system to quickly lower blood alcohol content.

CT and PET scan images of a mouse injected with the nanocapsules. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Hair of the dog? Lots of water? Cup of coffee? The quest for an effective hangover cure has never really led to a Holy Grail fix-it-all solution. What if you could counteract the impact of alcohol in your system before you ever even got to the hangover stage? Newly published research shows one potential path to the creation of a "sober pill."

We're a long way off from popping down to the local drug store and grabbing a bottle of B-Sober-Now pills, but the use of nanocapsules to reduce the blood alcohol content in mice might be the first step in that direction.

Research lead by Yunfeng Lu, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at UCLA, and Cheng Ji, biochemical and molecular biology professor at USC, and published in Nature Nanotechnology, details how the scientists encapsulated enzymes into a thin polymer shell to form enzyme nanocomplexes. A combination of two enzymes was injected into what were essentially drunk mice. The result was a fast lowering of the subjects' blood alcohol content.

"We show that nanocomplexes containing alcohol oxidase and catalase could reduce blood alcohol levels in intoxicated mice, offering an alternative antidote and prophylactic for alcohol intoxication," the scientists write. Their method essentially kicks up a body's ability to metabolize alcohol into overdrive.

The nanocapsule approach could potentially lead to the development of an oral alcohol antidote. Imagine having a sober pill dispenser at the door of every bar. Though science may be figuring out how to deal with over-indulgence, perhaps the smartest route is to simply not get wasted in the first place.

(Via MIT Technology Review)