Scientists develop gel that neutralizes alcohol’s harmful effects on the human body

The gel shifts breakdown of alcohol from liver to the digestive tract.

Do you find yourself discouraging people from consuming alcohol because of its negative health effects? Or do you also worry about the dangers of impaired judgement and risky behaviour? Well, hold onto your glasses because researchers at ETH Zurich have a game-changing solution for mitigating these risks.
A new protein gel can render alcohol completely harmless. Yes, you read that right. This groundbreaking discovery was published in Nature Nanotechnology, promises to mitigate the risks associated with alcohol consumption and potentially save millions of lives globally each year.

According to Professor Raffaele Mezzenga from the Laboratory of Food & Soft Materials at ETH Zurich, “The gel shifts the breakdown of alcohol from the liver to the digestive tract. In contrast to when alcohol is metabolised in the liver, no harmful acetaldehyde is produced as an intermediate product.”

The gel is primarily composed of whey proteins. It undergoes a unique process to form long fibrils. Iron atoms, evenly distributed on the fibril surface, act as catalysts for alcohol breakdown. Meanwhile, gold nanoparticles, reacting with glucose, produce hydrogen peroxide. This process initiates the conversion of alcohol to harmless acetic acid within the gel.

But before visualising a future free from alcohol related accidents, it’s important to note that this breakthrough is still in the experimental stages. While the initial results are promising, further research and clinical trials are needed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of this protein gel in humans. However, the potential benefits are undeniable. If successful, this technology will have a huge contribution towards improving public health.

When administered, protein gel dropped blood alcohol levels in mice by up to 56 percent within just five hours post-consumption. Mice treated with this gel daily alongside their alcohol intake showed reduced liver damage and improved metabolic health compared to their counterparts in control groups.

Mezzenga underlined a very important approach, “It’s healthier not to drink alcohol at all. However, the gel could be of particular interest to people who don’t want to give up alcohol completely, but don’t want to put a strain on their bodies and aren’t actively seeking the effects of alcohol.”

The researchers have filed for a patent for the gel. Though further clinical trials are necessary before human use authorisation, the gel’s edible whey protein composition offers promising prospects.

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