A New Pill to Cure Hangovers Is Coming, Here’s How It Works

A New Pill to Cure Hangovers Is Coming, Here’s How It Works


Drinking alcohol is like borrowing happiness
from tomorrow. Assuming all goes well, you and your friends
have a good time, and then the next morning you’re paying that debt back in the form
of a hangover. And trust me, the older you get, the steeper
the interest rate. Why isn’t there some miraculous pill I could
take that lets me do what I want without any consequences? It turns out there might be, the catch is
it’s only for mice at the moment. First let’s talk about hangovers, just to
get it out of the way as soon as possible. Don’t worry, I’ll dim the lights and talk
quietly. Alcohol plays a number of tricks on your body
that set you up for a rough morning. It tells your pituitary gland to stop producing
vasopressin, a hormone that helps you retain moisture. Without it your liquids go to your bladder,
which is why you have to pee all the time when you’ve been out drinking. Fast forward to the next day and you’re
dehydrated like the plants in my house I keep forgetting to water. You’ve peed away things your cells and muscles
need to function — like salt, magnesium, and potassium. And your other organs have stolen water from
your brain, causing it to literally shrink and pull on the membranes that attach it to
your skull. Consequently your head feels like it’s being
crushed by a Mountain, it’s like being Oberyn Martell. Now on top of all that, there’s a byproduct
of alcohol that can make hangovers even worse. The most common way your liver breaks alcohol
down is a two step process, and unfortunately the first step turns alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is highly toxic and makes your
headache and nausea worse. Oh, and it’s a known carcinogen. If you’re drinking at a moderate pace your
liver can break it down into the more benign acetate. But drink too much and the enzymes can’t
keep up, so we get a buildup of this nasty acetaldehyde. So with that in mind researchers have been
trying to give your liver a hand. Inspired by how the liver cells work, they
created a combination of three enzymes to neutralize alcohol: alcohol oxidase (AOx),
catalase (CAT), and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The first two break the alcohol down to acetaldehyde,
and the last one is the same enzyme your body uses to turn acetaldehyde into acetate. These enzymes are nothing new, but the real
trick was figuring out a safe and effective way to get them to the liver where they could
provide reinforcements. The researchers chose to wrap each of the
enzymes in a protective shell that’s already FDA approved, creating nanocapsules of enzymes
that would build up in the liver. You can’t go straight to testing something
like this in humans, so the researchers used drunk mice instead. Now I don’t know how they got the mice drunk,
but I like to imagine teeny tiny shot glasses were involved. Anyway once drunk and passed out, the researchers
injected the mice with their triple enzyme elixir. In four hours the blood alcohol level of the
treated mice dropped 45% more than the untreated ones, and acetaldehyde levels stayed extremely
low. This could be a major boon not just for the
shambling Sunday morning masses, but for emergency situations like alcohol poisoning too. Right now treatments for alcohol overdose
mostly rely on the body’s own pathways to break down alcohol. The fast elimination of the carcinogen acetaldehyde
could reduce the risk of cardiovascular and liver cancer as well. The next step is making sure these nanocapsules
are safe with no unforeseen side effects. If testing goes well on animals, clinical
trials on humans could start as soon as 2019. Until then, just remember what’s lurking
for you A saline drip is supposedly a miracle hangover
cure since it rehydrates you intravenously, but it turns out the saline we use is based
on terrible science. Find out why here. Did you know darker liquors can cause more
severe hangovers because of the impurities called congeners that give them their color.

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