Is Xenon a Future Neuroprotectant?

Pamela Sun; Jianteng Gu; Mervyn Maze; Daqing Ma


Future Neurology. 2009;14(4):483-492. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Acute neuronal injury has devastating consequences with increased risks of morbidity and mortality. Among its survivors, neurological deficit is associated with loss of function, independence and quality of life. Currently, there is a distinctive lack of effective clinical strategies to obviate this problem. Xenon, a noble gas with anesthetic properties, exhibits neuroprotective effects. It is efficacious and nontoxic and has been used safely in clinical settings involving both anesthetic and imaging applications in patients of all ages. Xenon blocks the NMDA subtype of the glutamate receptor, a pivotal step in the pathway towards neuronal death. The preclinical data obtained from animal models of stroke, neonatal asphyxia and global ischemia induced by cardiac arrest, as well as recent data of traumatic brain injury, revealed that xenon is a potentially ideal candidate as a neuroprotectant. In addition, recent studies demonstrated that xenon can uniquely prevent anesthetic-induced neurodegeneration in the developing brain. Thus, clinical studies are urgently required to investigate the neuroprotective effects of xenon in the clinical setting of brain damage.


Xenon, a noble gas discovered more than a century ago, has been known to exhibit anesthetic properties since 1946. Its effects are comparable to the commonly used anesthetic gas, nitrous oxide, and have been well defined Table 1). Recently, its notable safety and efficacy as an inhalational anesthetic have been studied in various clinical settings.[1,2] However, high manufacturing costs owing to its rarity in the atmosphere remain the limiting factor in its widespread clinical application.

As an antagonist of the NMDA subtype of the glutamate receptor,[3] xenon has been extensively investigated for its molecular action in neuroprotection against acute neuronal injury. In this review, we aim to briefly describe the NMDA receptor-related mechanisms of ischemic brain injury and focus chiefly on the research progress into xenon's neuroprotective effects and paradigms.