Researchers develop drug that sobers drunken mice

Researchers have developed a drug that effectively decreases the blood alcohol level of intoxicated mice using nanotechnology.

If it is found to be effective in humans, it is easy to imagine a variety of ways that the drug could be used and abused.


In the past, it has been difficult to develop such a drug, because multiple enzymes are needed in close proximity to break down the ethanol as well as its metabolites.

The solution involves biomimetic enzyme nanocomplexes. The enzymes (alcohol oxidase and catalase) are packaged in a thin polymer shell so that they are held together. Alcohol oxidase can break down ethanol and catalase can break down hydrogen peroxide, a potentially dangerous byproduct of the oxidase.

The blood alcohol reducing drug, if effective in humans, could be used in the treatment of alcohol intoxication as well as to prophylactically prevent intoxication. The prophylactic usage could be highly beneficial to alcoholics seeking treatment.

If the drug were found to be useful in humans, research should be done to evaluate its effectiveness as a part of a patient’s treatment as compared to other currently prescribed medications such as disulfiram. The argument could be made that disulfiram may still be more effective as it causes alcohol to have highly unpleasant effects.

Furthermore, the drug could be abused by intoxicated individuals that want to drive. With highly variable blood alcohol content (BAC), it would be difficult for one to know how much would be necessary to bring their BAC to safe driving levels and how long that would take. As we know, there are plenty of drugs that are controlled by prescriptions and pharmacies that are widely abused. Efforts would have to be made to carefully control this substance.

In addition to the medically and socially interesting implications of a “sobering drug,” the thin polymer shell technology could be used to package enzymes for other purposes. This technological advancement will allow combinations of all sorts of molecules that could be used for a wide range of treatments including managing the toxicities of already existing drugs. This could lead to new treatments as well as making current treatments more bearable to patients.

Source: Nature Nanotechnology


Waqaar Khawar

Waqaar Khawar is a fourth year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine. Before medical school, he graduated cum laude from North Carolina State University in 2006 with a degree in Computer Science and worked in the telecom industry. Waqaar is interested in the future of integration of technology in medicine. His focus in iMedicalApps is primarily on news and research in cutting edge technology.

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