Brain Injury Brought to a Halt by 68-year-old Anaesthetic! 

Posted in Fresh Thinking

Brain Injury Brought to a Halt by 68-year-old Anaesthetic! 

Krypton gave rise to Superman but  xenon could prove the real hero after astonishing new trials of the anaesthetic gas showed it halting  brain injury in its tracks. 

Already a shining light in car headlamps and phototherapy treatments, xenon is a colourless, odourless gas that glows blue when electrified.  

But  in trials with mice (1)   scientists have now discovered, if administered shortly after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it  may  also: 



  • prevent or significantly reduce  cognitive damage
  • prevent loss of  learning and memory  cells in the brain
  • prevent  degeneration of nerve fibres in the brain
  • reduce long-term brain inflammation
  • prevent early death



"Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that suggests it could be used after head injuries to prevent secondary injury developing.

 Dr Rita Campos-Pires, Imperial College London.


The study covered the entire life-span of the mice, enabling the scientists to reach another astounding conclusion: if administered early enough, life expectancy after brain injury returned to normal. 

The team now hopes to test xenon in human TBI patients as it is already used  as a general anaesthetic and has very few side effects. 

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, the European Society for Anaesthesiology,  the  National Institute for Academic Anaesthesia, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland, and The Gas Safety Trust. 


Zero in on Xenon:


  • Discovered by the Scottish chemist William Ramsay and English chemist Morris Travers in 1898
  • Named after the Greek word for ‘foreign’ or ‘strange’
  • makes up 1 in 11.5 million parts of the Earth’s atmosphere
  • first used as a surgical anaesthetic in 1951
  • can be obtained commercially as a bi-product when separating air into oxygen and nitrogen
  • can be safely kept in normal sealed glass or metal containers at standard temperature and pressure



  1. Campos-Pires, Rita, et al.  Xenon improves long-term cognitive function, reduces neuronal loss and chronic neuroinflammation, and improves survival after traumatic brain injury in mice. s.l. : British Journal of Anaesthesia, 2019.



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