Chinese scientists have genetically engineered a probiotic that speeds up the breakdown of alcohol and protects the liver from booze-related damages.
The findings, which were observed in mice, could translate into a reduction of hangover symptoms in humans, according to the researchers.
The science comes down to alcohol dehydrogenase 1B (ADH1B), an enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of alcohol to acetaldehyde. East Asian and Polynesian populations commonly possess the enzyme.
Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology engineered a bacterium called Lactococcus lactis to express ADH1B.
They then encapsulated the probiotic and tested it in three groups of mice that had been exposed to various alcohol levels.
Just 20 minutes after alcohol exposure, the group of untreated mice displayed signs of drunkenness, such as failing to get back on their feet after being placed on their backs.
On the other hand, half of the mice that received the probiotic managed to turn themselves over after an hour. Meanwhile, a quarter of those that were treated did not have a problem getting back on their feet at all.
Additional tests showed that blood alcohol levels in the untreated group continued to rise, while those in the treated group began to fall.
The mice that received the probiotic also displayed lower levels of lipids and triglycerides in their liver, suggesting that the probiotic may prevent alcohol-related damages to the organ.
Meng Dong, one of the study’s authors, said the next step is to investigate whether the probiotic’s effects apply to humans. Her team believes genetically engineered probiotics will also “provide new ideas for the treatment of liver diseases.”
“We are excited about the improvement of recombinant probiotics in acute alcohol-induced liver and intestinal damage,” Dong said.
The study, titled “Oral Probiotic Expressing Human Ethanol Dehydrogenase Attenuates Damage Caused by Acute Alcohol Consumption in Mice,” was published this week in the journal Microbiology Spectrum.