Yunfeng Lu, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering professor at UCLA; Cheng Ji, an expert in liver diseases from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California; and UCLA graduate student Duo Xu worked together to develop the alcohol antidote and test it on mice, AP reported.
The researchers selected three natural enzymes that convert alcohol into nontoxic molecules which can then be expelled from the human body. The scientists covered the enzymes in a shell material that they have not disclosed, except to say it is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The nanocapsules were then injected into the veins of inebriated mice, where they traveled to the mice's livers to digest the alcohol.
The team's findings reveal that the blood alcohol level of the drunk rodents given the antidote decreased by 45 percent in just four hours compared to mice who were not given the treatment. In addition, the blood concentration of acetaldehyde in mice given the treatment was very low compared to those who did not receive the antidote. The mice given the magic pills also woke up from their drunk state much faster than their untreated fellow cheese nibblers.
Acetaldehyde is the chemical compound produced during alcohol metabolism that causes common hangover effects like headaches and vomiting.
According to the researchers, the treatment could also help prevent alcohol poisoning and protect the liver from alcohol-related damage. The drugs are currently undergoing tests to ensure that they are safe for consumption and don't result in any dangerous side effects. If the treatment passes tests on animals, human clinical trials could begin as soon as a year from now.
Between 8 and 10 percent of emergency room visits in the US are related to acute alcohol poisoning, and alcohol is the most prevalent risk factor for premature deaths and disability among people aged between 15-49. In addition, alcohol use is a risk factor for many types of cancer, including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast, according to the World Health Organization.