No more hangovers?
Posted on the 18th April 2023
The days of the dreaded hangover could be a thing of the past thanks to a genetically engineered probiotic.
Using mice, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology found the enzyme ADH1B helped them recover from alcohol consumption faster and with fewer associated health problems.
While it is being strongly advised that the breakthrough should not be used as an excuse to drink more, it is hoped that probiotics could be used in the future to reduce alcohol-related damage to the liver and intestines.
Although not yet tested on humans, initial results have revealed that administering the probiotic to mice reduced alcohol absorption, prolonged alcohol tolerance, and shortened the animals’ recovery time after exposure to alcohol.
In the journal Microbiology Spectrum, researchers explain how they genetically engineered a probiotic to express the enzyme dehydrogenase in mice.
It regulates how the body converts alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde, a byproduct that causes the feelings of a hangover by accumulating in the liver and leading to headaches and nausea.
Previous studies on mice have shown that a specific type of the enzyme, called ADH1B, can speed up the breakdown of alcohol internally.
But that approach hasn’t yet been shown to be safe in humans.
Seeking a safer method, the researchers used the probiotic lactococcus lactis — a bacteria often used in fermentation — and cloned ADH1B into it.
Testing it on three groups of five mice, each was exposed to different levels of alcohol.
Mice without the probiotic - the control group - showed signs of drunkenness just 20 minutes after exposure to alcohol.
When the mice were also placed on their backs, they were unable to get back on their feet.
But of the mice who received a probiotic that expressed human ADH1B, half were still able to turn themselves over an hour after alcohol exposure.
A quarter never lost their ability to turn themselves over.
Further tests showed that two hours after exposure, blood alcohol levels in the control group continued to rise, while those in the probiotic-treated mice had begun to fall.
Researchers also found that treated mice showed lower levels of lipids and triglycerides in their livers, suggesting that the probiotic could alleviate alcohol-related damage to the organ.
The WHO estimates that excessive alcohol consumption kills 3 million people around the world each year.