Oxygen is essential for many forms of life and its depletion in the body and the environment can lead to deleterious effects. Low oxygen conditions, even anoxia, are associated with eutrophication of lakes and rivers, wherein an over abundance of nutrients often caused by pollution result in excessive plant growth and decay, threatening water quality, ecosystem balance, and aquatic life. In the body, low oxygen conditions or hypoxia may be generalized, as can occur at high altitude or during strenuous exercise, or localized in particular tissues, when there is a mismatch between oxygen supply and demand. Hypoxia is present in many important diseases as well. Low oxygen levels in tumors are often associated with biochemical changes, increased invasiveness, cancer progression, and resistance to radiation and chemotherapies. Vascular blockage in strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral artery disease, which is common in diabetes, are other situations where oxygen levels can drop precipitously and cause great damage to affected tissues. Clearly, innovative sensing technologies that provide new insight into these many oxygen dependent processes can impact global society in significant ways.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70275-5