Is Xenon a Future Neuroprotectant?

Pamela Sun; Jianteng Gu; Mervyn Maze; Daqing Ma


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

In This Article


The term 'xenon' is a Greek derivative meaning 'stranger' owing to its scarcity. The colorless, odorless, tasteless monatomic gas with an atomic number of 54 and a molecular weight of 131.3 kDa, is the largest molecule of the noble gases.[56] With a full outer shell, it is chemically inert yet surprisingly biologically active. Since its discovery by the chemists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers in 1898 by fractional distillation of liquified air, the production of xenon has remained expensive. Nonetheless, xenon has been shown to possess many of the desirable qualities of the ideal anesthetic and plays an increasing role in medical practice.

Xenon has an extremely low blood:gas partition coefficient[57] compared with other volatile anesthetics. It readily reaches equilibrium across the BBB with an estimated minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) of 63%.[58] Its high potency with rapid induction and emergence, irrespective of the duration of anesthesia, is an advantageous property for any volatile anesthetic agent.[59,60]

In addition, xenon lacks many of the anesthetic-induced side effects. It is safe and effective, conferring cardiostability and cardioprotection, as well as preconditioning effects in both the cardiovascular and neurological systems.[61] With regard to other organ systems, xenon does not appear to be harmful and has been used safely in hepatic surgery.[62] It has been demonstrated in animal studies to be devoid of any fetotoxicity.[55] Furthermore, xenon is not harmful to the environment, whereas the anesthetic use of nitrous oxide accounts for 0.1% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.[61]