Tablet cuts effects of alcohol

Researchers claim to have created a potential "booze pill" that could lower blood alcohol content and reduce liver damage caused by heavy drinking.

In a study published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal today, scientists combined two enzymes and tested their ability to act as an alcohol prophylactic and antidote. Intoxicated mice given a combination of the enzymes recorded lower blood-alcohol content over time.

Researchers from the University of California found the blood-alcohol concentration reduced 10.1 per cent 45 minutes after the alcohol intake, by 31.8 per cent at 90 minutes and 36.8 per cent at three hours - compared with smaller reductions when the mice were given alcohol followed by just one of the enzymes.

To test the pill's antidote potential, the team injected intoxicated mice with the two enzymes 30 minutes later. The mice were found to have healthier livers and a significant reduction in blood-alcohol concentration, compared with those injected with one enzyme.

Research author Yunfeng Lu said the work suggested that the artificially produced "nanocomplexes" could provide a method for preventing liver injury arising from the over-consumption of alcohol.

"Excessive consumption and abuse of alcohol are associated with a range of organ injuries and social problems," Professor Lu said.

But WA Professor Mike Daube, from the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, said the concept was "very speculative" and a pill was not the answer to alcohol problems in society.

"We know how to reduce alcohol problems, and that lies with politicians, not with scientists," he said.

"Mice are very different to humans. Mice don't drink, mice don't drive after they've had too much to drink. So this is very theoretical."

Professor Daube said tackling alcohol pricing and accessibility were more important in addressing long-term drinking.

"We are always reading about people developing pills that can do this and that, and they sound miraculous but few of them go beyond the theoretical," he said.

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