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Biological Chemistry

Nanoscale Tool For Treating Alcohol Intoxication

By corralling enzymes that work in tandem, scientists have come up with a way to reduce blood-alcohol levels in intoxicated mice

by Bethany Halford
February 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 8

Scientists have a new strategy to fight alcohol abuse. They’ve trapped an enzyme pair that breaks down ethanol within a polymer nanocapsule with the aim of using it as a prophylactic or antidote to alcohol intoxication (Nat. Nanotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.264). Because enzymes often work in tandem in the body, they are frequently confined in close proximity to one another within sophisticated subcellular compartments. To mimic this close interaction, a team led by UCLA’s Yunfeng Lu used DNA to corral as many as three enzymes. They then created a thin, permeable polymer shell to confine the assembly within a nanocapsule before stripping away its DNA scaffold. By pairing an alcohol oxidase enzyme and a catalase enzyme within the nanocapsules and then administering them to mice, the team was able to reduce the rodents’ blood-alcohol levels with either prophylactic use or administration after mice were intoxicated. “Considering the vast library of enzymes that are currently or potentially available, novel classes of enzyme nanocomplexes could be built for a broad range of applications,” the team notes.


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