New Gel Neutralizes Booze in the Body

Researchers developed a protein gel that breaks down alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract and converts it into harmless acetic acid before it enters the bloodstream. This gel, tested on mice, reduces blood alcohol levels and prevents liver damage by shifting the breakdown of alcohol from the liver to the digestive tract, thereby avoiding the harmful intermediate acetaldehyde.

Scientists from ETH Zurich have developed a protein-based gel that breaks down alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract without harming the body. In the future, people who take the gel may reduce the harmful and intoxicating effects of alcohol.

  • Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a gel based on whey protein fibrils that uses individual iron atoms to convert alcohol in the intestine into harmless acetic acid.
    Any substance which, when dissolved in water, gives a pH less than 7.0 or gives a hydrogen ion.

    ” data-gt-translate-attributes=”({“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”})” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>acid before it enters the bloodstream.

  • They showed that in mice, the gel reduces blood alcohol levels by up to 50% and protects the body from damage.
  • Although further testing is needed before the gel can be used in humans, the researchers are confident these will be a success and have already filed a patent application for the gel.

Most alcohol enters the bloodstream through the mucous layer of the stomach and intestines. The consequences of this situation are today indisputable: even small quantities of alcohol impair the ability to concentrate and react, thus increasing the risk of accidents. Regularly drinking large quantities is harmful to your health: common consequences include liver disease, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and cancer. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3 million people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption.

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a protein gel that breaks down alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract. In a study recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnologythey show that in mice, the gel converts alcohol quickly, efficiently and directly into harmless acetic acid before it enters the bloodstream, where it would normally develop its intoxicating and harmful effects.

Alcohol degradation

Degradation of alcohol in the body with and without the new gel. Credit: ETH Zurich

Reduce health damage caused by alcohol

“The gel moves the breakdown of alcohol from the liver to the digestive tract. Unlike the metabolism of alcohol in the liver, no harmful acetaldehyde is produced as an intermediate product,” explains Professor Raffaele Mezzenga from the Food and Soft Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich. Acetaldehyde is toxic and responsible for many health problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

In the future, the gel could be taken orally before or during alcohol consumption to prevent blood alcohol levels from increasing and acetaldehyde from damaging the body. Unlike many products on the market, the gel not only combats the symptoms of harmful alcohol consumption, but also its causes. However, the gel is only effective as long as alcohol remains in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that there is little it can do to combat alcohol poisoning once the alcohol has entered the bloodstream. It also doesn’t help reduce alcohol consumption in general. “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 who don’t want to put a strain on their body and who don’t actively seek the effects of alcohol,” says Mezzenga.

Main ingredients: whey, iron and gold

The researchers used regular whey proteins to produce the gel. They boiled them for several hours to form long, thin fibrils. Adding salt and water as a solvent then causes the fibrils to cross-link and form a gel. The advantage of a gel over other delivery systems is that it is digested very slowly. But to break down the alcohol, the gel needs several catalysts.

The researchers used individual iron atoms as the main catalyst, which they distributed evenly across the surface of the long protein fibrils. “We immersed the fibrils in an iron bath, so to speak, so that they could react effectively with the alcohol and transform it into acetic acid,” explains Jiaqi Su, researcher at ETH and first author of the paper. study. Small amounts of hydrogen peroxide are needed to trigger this reaction in the intestine. These are generated by an upstream reaction between glucose and gold nanoparticles. Gold was chosen as the catalyst for hydrogen peroxide because the precious metal is not digested and therefore remains effective longer in the digestive tract. The researchers integrated all of these substances – iron, glucose and gold – into the gel. This resulted in a cascade of multi-step enzymatic reactions that ultimately convert the alcohol into acetic acid.

The gel works in mice

The researchers tested the effectiveness of the new gel on mice given alcohol once as well as on mice given alcohol regularly for ten days. Thirty minutes after administering a single dose of alcohol, prophylactic application of the gel reduced alcohol levels in mice by 40 percent. Five hours after drinking, their blood alcohol levels had dropped by up to 56 percent compared to the control group. Harmful acetaldehyde accumulated less in these mice and they showed significantly reduced stress responses in their livers, which was reflected in better blood values.

In mice that received alcohol for ten days, the researchers were able to demonstrate not only a lower alcohol level, but also a lasting therapeutic effect of the gel: the mice that received the gel daily in addition to alcohol showed significantly less weight loss. , less liver damage and therefore better fat metabolism in the liver as well as better blood values. Other organs of the mice, such as the spleen or intestine, as well as their tissues, also showed much less damage from alcohol.

Patent pending

In an earlier study of iron delivery via whey protein fibrils, researchers found that iron reacted with alcohol to form acetic acid. This process was too slow and too inefficient at the time, so they changed the form in which they attached the iron to the protein fibrils. “Instead of using larger nanoparticles, we opted for individual iron atoms, which can be distributed more evenly on the surface of the fibrils and therefore react more efficiently and quickly with the alcohol,” explains Mezzenga.

The researchers have already filed a patent application for the gel. Although several clinical tests are still necessary before it can be authorized for human use, the researchers are confident that this step will also be successful, since they have already shown that the whey protein fibrils that make up the gel are edible.

Reference: “Single-site iron-anchored amyloid hydrogels as catalytic platforms for alcohol detoxification” by Jiaqi Su, Pengjie Wang, Wei Zhou, Mohammad Peydayesh, Jiangtao Zhou, Tonghui Jin, Felix Donat, Cuiyuan Jin, Lu Xia, Kaiwen Wang, Fazheng Ren, Paul Van der Meeren, F. Pelayo García de Arquer and Raffaele Mezzenga, May 13, 2024, Nature Nanotechnology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41565-024-01657-7

News Source :
Gn Health

Back to top button