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Health

A revolutionary gel could stop the harm of alcohol

Health


Raise a glass to science.

Researchers have developed a protein gel that neutralizes alcohol before it enters the bloodstream and renders it essentially harmless.

Scientists from ETH Zurich have created a gel that, when administered to mice, reduces blood alcohol levels by up to 50% and protects their bodies from damage, according to SciTechDaily.

More studies are needed before the gel can be tested on humans, but the scientists, who published their results Monday in Nature Nanotechnology, hope their work could eventually help prevent the 3 million deaths that occur each year in the world due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Scientists have developed a gel that could potentially neutralize the harmful effects of alcohol. Lucie – stock.adobe.com

The gel works by converting alcohol into harmless acetic acid before it is metabolized by the body.

Typically, when you drink, alcohol enters the bloodstream through the mucous layers of the stomach and intestines, according to an article published in the journal Nutrients. Unlike food, which is digested slowly by the intestinal tract, alcohol bypasses this and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, meaning it can quickly begin to impact all of your organs as the blood circulates in your body. For reference, a single red blood cell travels through the entire body in about a minute, which is why you may start to feel the effects of alcohol shortly after downing just one drink.

As alcohol is metabolized, it produces a toxic byproduct called acetaldehyde. Although this toxin does not last long (alcohol is then broken down into acetate), acetaldehyde can potentially cause serious damage to your body during its brief appearance.

Alcohol usually converts first to acetaldehyde, which is toxic, and then to acetic acid, which is harmless. ETH Zurich

Because of the potential risk, researchers focused on completely eliminating acetaldehyde. If alcohol could be immediately converted to acetate, they reasoned, it would do no harm. To do this, they started with a simple whey protein recipe, then eventually added iron, glucose, and gold nanoparticles to achieve the final product.

“The gel moves the breakdown of alcohol from the liver to the digestive tract. Unlike the metabolization of alcohol in the liver, no harmful acetaldehyde is produced as an intermediate product,” said Dr. Raffaele Mezzenga, from the Food and Soft Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich, in a statement.

Researchers emphasized that it is always healthier to avoid alcohol altogether, as several studies have shown that even moderate amounts of alcohol can be harmful to your health.

The researchers successfully tested their gel on mice, but many more clinical trials will need to be carried out before it can be administered to humans. Syda Productions – stock.adobe.com

“It’s healthier not to drink alcohol at all. However, the gel could be particularly interesting for people who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, but don’t want to strain their body and aren’t actively seeking the effects of alcohol,” Mezzenga told SciTechDaily.

The gel also only works as long as alcohol remains in the intestinal tract. Once alcohol has already passed into the bloodstream, it will not reverse these effects. In other words, in theory, if you already feel drunk and then consume the gel, you won’t immediately stop feeling drunk, but the gel could help reduce the harmful effects of alcohol on the body . Taking the gel before starting to drink would theoretically prevent a person from feeling drunk – but more research is needed.

To test the gel, the scientists used two groups of mice: one that received a single dose of alcohol and one that received alcohol regularly for 10 days. When the researchers tested the mice’s blood alcohol levels 30 minutes after receiving their single dose of alcohol, the gel reduced their alcohol levels by 40 percent. Five hours after drinking, the blood alcohol level had dropped by 56%.

In mice that were given alcohol consistently for 10 days – to illustrate chronic excessive alcohol consumption – the researchers found that the gel still had a positive effect. These mice had less liver damage, lost less weight, and their organs (like the spleen and intestine) showed less damage.

The scientists have filed a patent application for their gel and hope to continue clinical trials that will eventually make the product available to the general public.




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