Research highlight

It takes two

Nature Nanotechnology

February 18, 2013

Two or more enzymes encapsulated in a thin polymer shell can lower blood alcohol levels in intoxicated mice, reports a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology this week. The work illustrates that these artificially synthesised nanocomplexes containing alcohol oxidase and catalase may provide a method for preventing liver injury arising from the overconsumption of alcohol.

Excessive consumption and abuse of alcohol are associated with a range of organ injuries and social problems. Although an alcohol prophylactic does exist, its efficacy has not yet been documented. Various colloidal antidotes have been developed for drug overdoses, however such antidotes may not be sufficient to treat alcohol intoxication.

Yunfeng Lu and colleagues created a stable enzyme nanocomplex, made up of alcohol oxidase (AOx) and catalase (Cat) and located within a thin polymer shell, in order to demonstrate potential designs for an alcohol prophylactic and antidote. To test its prophylactic capacity, the team fed mice a diet of alcohol and the nanocomplex (AOx-Cat.) They found that the blood alcohol concentration of the mice fed n(AOx-Cat) reduced by 10.1% at 45 minutes post feeding, by 31.8% at 90 minutes and 36.8% at 3 hours, compared with significantly smaller reductions when the mice were fed alcohol combined with one of the enzymes (within or without a polymer shell). To study antidote potential, the team intoxicated mice with alcohol and then injected the animals with n(AOx-Cat) 30 minutes later. The mice treated with n(AOx-Cat) presented the lowest levels of alanine transaminase - an enzyme used to monitor/assess liver health - and the most significant blood alcohol concentration reduction after the injection when compared to controls and mice fed a mixture of n(AOx) and n(Cat.)

doi: 10.1038/nnano.2012.264

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