There might finally be a way to enjoy alcohol without the hangover.
A research team led by Yunfeng Lu, a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering professor at the University of California, has developed a pill that promises a quicker recovery from a problem that is all too common — drinking a bit too much.
Lu developed an antidote in the form of capsules filled with natural enzymes usually found in liver cells that help the body break down the alcohol into harmless molecules.
The team, which also includes Cheng Ji, an expert in liver diseases from Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Lu's graduate student Duo Xu, then developed a safe way to deliver these natural enzymes to the liver by wrapping them in a shell made with U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved material.
They then tested the antidote on drunk mice by injecting the nanocapsules into their veins. Lu said that the enzymes successfully made their way to the circulatory system and eventually reached their destination, which is the liver. "They entered the cells and served as mini–reactors to digest alcohol," he wrote on The Conservation.
Lu and company learned that the antidote decreased the drunk mice's blood alcohol level by 45 percent in just four hours compared to the drunk mice that weren't given the antidote.
The blood concentration of acetaldehyde, the highly toxic carcinogenic compound responsible for leaving the drinking person's face red and of course the insufferable headaches and vomiting the day after, remained extremely low as well.
The intoxicated mice, which Lu pointed out tend to fall asleep much faster than inebriated humans, also woke up faster than the mice that did not receive the treatment.
The antidote proved successful in speeding up the breakdown of the alcohol in the system, ultimately lowering the risks of alcohol poisoning or any stress and damage to the liver. This will also help them wake up earlier the next day even after a night of drinking.
As great as everything sounds, Lu emphasized that one thing the antidote will not do is prevent people from drinking more alcohol than they can handle. It is just designed to help them recover from the intoxication sooner while also combating serious alcohol-associated diseases.
He also pointed out that while a hangover pill might seem like a "frivolous" idea, he noted that alcohol has serious implications on one's health, which are the focus of his research in the first place.
"Alcohol is the leading risk factor for premature deaths and disability among people aged 15-49 and its abuse leads to serious health problems, including cardiovascular and liver cancer," he wrote, noting that eight to 10 percent of emergency room visits in America are due to acute alcohol poisoning.
The team is now working on determining whether or not the antidote has dangerous side effects. If the treatments prove safe and effective in animals, Lu said that they will begin human clinical trials "in as early as one year."
Interested readers can learn all about the experiments here.