Anti-intoxicant gel keeps alcohol out of the bloodstream

Ingested before, during or soon after drinking, the gel converts alcohol into harmless acetic acid. Depositphotos

Ordinarily, alcohol enters the bloodstream through the mucous membranes that line the inside of the stomach and intestines. It then proceeds to the liver, where it’s metabolized first into a toxic chemical compound known as acetaldehyde, and then into relatively harmless acetic acid.

Unfortunately, even though the acetaldehyde is converted into acetic acid fairly quickly, it can still cause a lot of damage to the liver – and to other parts of the body – while it’s around. Additionally, if large quantities of alcohol are being consumed in a short time period, it can’t all be metabolized quickly enough, leading to intoxication.

That’s where the experimental new gel comes in.

Developed by scientists at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university, it consists of glucose, gold nanoparticles, and whey-protein-derived nanofibers covered with iron atoms. It can be consumed before, during or soon after drinking, as long as it’s present while the alcohol is still in the intestinal tract.

Fortunately, the gel itself is digested quite slowly, so it remains in the tract long enough to get its job done. That job begins with the glucose and gold particles reacting together inside the body, producing hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide in turn triggers a series of enzymatic reactions – boosted by the iron atoms – which convert any alcohol that may be present directly into acetic acid. This happens before the alcohol has a chance to enter the bloodstream.

In lab tests, the gel was prophylactically administered to mice that received a single dose of alcohol. Within 30 minutes, the blood alcohol levels of those mice dropped by 40% as compared to a control group that didn’t receive the gel. That figure climbed to 56% after five hours.

It was also found that the treated mice had less acetaldehyde in their systems, plus they showed much less stress in their livers. Human trials are now being planned.

“It’s healthier not to drink alcohol at all,” says the lead scientist, Prof. Raffaele Mezzenga. “However, the gel could be of particular interest to people who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, but don’t want to put a strain on their bodies and aren’t actively seeking the effects of alcohol.”

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: ETH Zurich


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