Inspired by the body’s approach for breaking down alcohol, we chose three natural enzymes that convert alcohol into harmless molecules that are then excreted. That might sound simple, because these enzymes were not new, but the tricky part was to figure out a safe, effective way to deliver them to the liver.
To protect the enzymes, we wrapped each of them in a shell, using a material the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had already approved for pills. We then injected these nanocapsules into the veins of drunk mice where they hurtled through the circulatory system, eventually arriving in the liver where they entered the cells and served as mini–reactors to digest alcohol.
We showed that in inebriated mice (which fall asleep much faster than drunk humans), the treatment decreased the blood alcohol level by 45 percent in just four hours compared to mice that didn’t receive any.