(NewsNation) — Scientists have identified a hormone able to reverse the effects of alcohol intoxication, a discovery that could prove effective in treating acute alcohol poisoning.
The study conducted by researchers at UT Southwestern found that a shot of a liver-produced hormone called FGF21 was able to sober up mice, allowing them to regain consciousness and coordination faster than mice that didn’t receive the treatment.
The hormone achieved this by activating the noradrenergic nervous system and releasing norepinephrine, which increases alertness, arousal and attention, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
FGF21 is naturally produced in human livers and is also known to reduce alcohol intake and stimulate water drinking.
“Humans have long searched for agents that could reverse drunkenness, and now we have discovered something to achieve this effect that’s been in our bodies the whole time,” Dr. David Mangelsdorf, the co-lead researcher, said in a UT Southwestern news release.
For the study, researchers delivered enough alcohol into mice to knock them out, mimicking a binge drinking session. They then administered FGF21 to some mice, which regained consciousness twice as quickly as those that received no injection of the hormone.
When delivering smaller amounts of alcohol, mimicking more regular drinking, mice that received the hormone also regained coordination faster than those that didn’t.
“We don’t want to send the signal that it’s OK to get drunk because a drug can undo it,” said Dr. Steven Kliewer, the study’s other co-lead researcher. “But FGF21 may eventually be able to prevent some negative consequences for people incapacitated from alcohol.”
While the hormone was able to counteract alcohol intoxication, it did not prove effective at accelerating recovery of animals that received other types of sedatives such as ketamine.
With alcohol-related visits to the ER on the rise, Mangelsdorf said FGF21 could eventually be developed into a drug and administered in hospitals and college campuses akin to the way naloxone is used to reverse opioid overdoses.