Does suspended animation mean anything to you?What do you think about doctors sending you into a state of somewhere between life and death to eventually save you?
Well, doctors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will begin to send patients into suspended animation to prevent blood loss that too often leads to preventable death in surgery.
New Scientist reported that the surgeons will use emergency preservation and resuscitation, as they call it, to rapidly cool a patient’s body to stop basically all cellular activity. They call it “emergency preservation and resuscitation,” not suspended animation because the latter is too “science fiction,” but nothing we have a problem with here at Serious Wonder.
The saline solution replaces the patient’s blood to induce hypothermia so that surgeons may repair wounds without trying to stop blood loss at the same time.
Now, does any of this make you think about the definitions of certain things? Like life, death, and what the difference is between the two?
If we have no blood flowing through us or cellular activity, are we alive? Is it appropriate to call us dead though if we’ll be able to be revived once the surgery was complete? Even when people are anesthetized, what is their life/death status.Will we need to redefine what life and death actually are?
The third animal with technical immortality is called the Tardigrade, or “Water Bear”, because they actually look kind of like an 8 legged gummy bear if you examine them closely under a microscope. Tardigrades are able to stall the process of aging through a process called “Cryptobiosis”, where they shut down their entire body and metabolism until things get better. This allows Tradigrades to be what are called “extremophiles”, meaning they don’t just resist aging. They can also be boiled, irradiated, frozen, starved, dried out, burned, or thrown out of an airlock in space and still survive. They can withstand the hottest, coldest, driest and most inhospitable places on Earth, sometimes even for decades.
Most organisms need water to suirvive, so metabolism can occur and drive all the biochemical reactions that take place in cells. But creatures like the Tardigrade get around this restriction through a process called Anhydrobiosis, meaning life without water. Bacteria, Archea, and some plants can all survive drying up. For many tardigrades, this requires thast they go through what’s called a Ton-state, they curl up into a ball and wait until water returns. it’s thought that as water becomes scarce and they enter the Tun-state, they start to synthesize special molecules which fill the tardigrade cells to replace lost water. By forming a matrix. Components of the cells that are sensitive to dryness, like DNA, protein, and membranes, get trapped in this matrix. It’s thought that this keeps these molecules locked in position to stop them folding, breaking apart or fusing together. Once it is rehydrated the matrix dissolves, leaving behind undamaged functional cells. Beyond dryness, tardigrades can also tolerate other extreme stresses. Scientists are now trying to find our whether tardigrades use their Tun-state to survive other stresses like aging, if we can undrerstand how they stabilize their sensitive biological molecules, perhaps we can apply this knowledge to help us stabilize human cells during freezing, or cryinic preservation.
If the technology existed, would you have your brain preserved? Do you believe your brain is the essence of you?
To noted American PhD Neuroscientist and Futurist, Ken Hayworth, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes.” He is currently at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute developing machines and techniques to map brain tissue at the nanometer scale. He strives for the ability to trace connections between neurons and to provide a way to preserve a human brain’s total synaptic organization. The human brain contains 100 billion neurons and a single neuron can have tens of thousands of connections. If you are like Ken Hayworth, you believe having a full map of the human brain is the key to encoding our individual identities and an endeavor more scientists should be researching.
A self-described transhumanist and the President of the Brain Preservation Foundation, Hayworth’s goal is to perfect existing preservation techniques, like cryonics, as well as explore and push evolving opportunities to effect a change on the status quo. Currently there is no brain preservation option that offers systematic, scientific evidence as to how much human brain tissue is actually preserved when undergoing today’s experimental preservation methods. For example, theoretically vitrification (the process used in cryonics to prevent human organs from freezing when tissue is cooled for cryopreservation) provides a safeguard against tissue damage. However, actual research about the effectiveness of this procedure is based on a very little testing information available.
Discourse surrounding cryonics or other forms of human preservation after death has always evoked controversy. Advocates and skeptics hold strong opinions on opposite sides of the spectrum. Hayworth aims to utilize these conversations between advocates and skeptics to keep his intentions honest. The Brain Preservation Foundation has notable cryonics cynics on its board of directors to encourage even-handed discussions that will aid and legitimize brain preservation breakthroughs.
Hayworth formulated another incentive for scientists to focus on brain preservation: a $100,000.00 prize awaits anyone who demonstrates large mammal brain preservation at the synaptic level. The money, however, Hayworth says, is not the real prize. The real trophy is about creating credibility for the idea that we can preserve our identities after death.
Hayworth believes we can achieve his vision of preserving an entire human brain at an accepted and proven standard within the next decade. If Hayworth is right, is there a countdown to immortality?
To find out more, please follow this link to the Galactic Public Archives’ newest video. This Ken Hayworth video is the first release in a multi-part series.
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