Hyperpolarized noble gases have been used early on in applications for sensitivity enhanced NMR. 129
Xe has been explored for various applications because it can be used beyond the gas-driven examination of void spaces. Its solubility in aqueous solutions and its affinity for hydrophobic binding pockets allows “functionalization” through combination with host structures that bind one or multiple gas atoms. Moreover, the transient nature of gas binding in such hosts allows the combination with another signal enhancement technique, namely chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST). Different systems have been investigated for implementing various types of so-called Xe biosensors where the gas binds to a targeted host to address molecular markers or to sense biophysical parameters. This review summarizes developments in biosensor design and synthesis for achieving molecular sensing with NMR at unprecedented sensitivity. Aspects regarding Xe exchange kinetics and chemical engineering of various classes of hosts for an efficient build-up of the CEST effect will also be discussed as well as the cavity design of host molecules to identify a pool of bound Xe. The concept is presented in the broader context of reporter design with insights from other modalities that are helpful for advancing the field of Xe biosensors.
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