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Biology boffins have turned their hand to something useful: a pill to stop you acting drunk no matter how many pints you put away.

It's your mutinous immune system that gives you that sozzled feeling after a boozy session, scientists claim in a paper published today in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Conk out certain immuno receptors in your brain and you'll be able to walk in a straight line, perform complex manual tasks and probably even stay awake on the night bus home after a heavy dose of alcoholic refreshment.

These receptors are a particular part of your immune system and scientists have been trying to figure out their connection to alcohol for years. When active TLR4s react with alcohol they release an inflammatory chemical called cytokine that seems to contribute to making us sleepy and poorly-coordinated.

It was a research team at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois, that made the breakthrough. Their pill works for mice, at least.

“It’s amazing to think that despite 10,000 years of using alcohol, and several decades of investigation into the way that alcohol affects the nerve cells in our brain, we are still trying to figure out exactly how it works,” says lead researcher Dr Mark Hutchinson from the University’s School of Medical Sciences.

Though a pill to let enjoy your favourite tipple without getting drunk appears to be a godsend, the real application of the science will be in helping with the neurobiology of alcohol addiction.

“Medications targeting Toll-like Receptor 4 may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses,” says Dr Hutchinson.

The paper cited the findings of a previous study where proteins that inhibited the action of TLRs were shown to reduce binge drinking in "alcohol-preferring rats".

In another study cited, mice bred not to express TLRs were shown to suffer much less from anxiety after they were suddenly withdrawn from chronic alcohol exposure. The anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal is one of the reasons why many alcoholics relapse. Reducing it could significantly improve recovery rates.

You can peruse a PDF of the research here. ®

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