Is it possible to freeze a person after they die then revive them in the future? Could you take a dying person, freeze them for hundreds of years, thaw them, cure them, and then show them to their fusion-powered flying car. We’ve already talked about biostasis, suspended animation, therapeutic hypothermia, and induced hibernation, which could preserve a body for a few years, but nowhere near centuries. It would be great to have a backup plan in case no singularity of any sort happens this century. From Captain America to Fry from futurama, it has been a dream in sci fi for a long time. The recent Sci fi Film, Passengers, staring Chris Pratt and Scarlett Johanson, tells the story of space colonists being frozen in a spacecraft for thousands of years in order to reach a distant exoplanet. As well as the dangers of waking up during the middle of the trip. Millionaires, time travelers, immortalists, transhumanists, and futurama enthusiasts alike have always dreamed of being frozen in liquid nitrogen and thawed out centuries later. With that said, we should be careful not to confuse terms like Cryogenics, with terms like Cryopreservation, and terms like Cryonics or Vitrification.
The study of the effect of below freezing temperatures on biological systems is called “Cryobiology” or “Cryogenics”, and through this field of science we’ve realized that simply freezing the human body forms ice crystals in the cells which cut and rupture their membranes. As the water in our cells turns to ice it expands, destroying the form and structure of organs and tissues. But some fish and frogs have managed to avoid this problem despite being frozen solid in the winter using what are called “Cryoprotectants”, such as glucose and ethylene glycol. Just like antifreeze keeps the fuel lines in your car from freezing and cracking, cryoprotectants do the same for your blood vessels, letting blood circulate even though they are frozen on the outside. But make no mistake, this is not hibernation, crypoprotectants virtually ceases all metabolic function until the cells are unfrozen. The Rana Silvanica frog, unlike most hibernating creatures, survives not by avoiding the extereme temperature, but by succumbing to it. Even it’s blood is frozen solid, but the glucose cryoprotectant it produces stops the water in their cells from freezing. So the question is, could we do this with humans? Technically we could, but thawing ourselves out would be difficult. Concentrations of glucose at this would be toxic to human cells, but frog cells come with a special mechanism that can reabsorb the sugar as it thaws out. Could we ever gene edit this exact same mechanism into our DNA? To allow human body to use glucose in the same way, we would need to make our cells immune to it’s toxicity in high concentrations, which would require genetic engineering. But if you don’t want to become a frog person, there is much research going into finding a cryoprotectant compatible with humans. But you can’t just drown a human head with cryoprotectants and expect it to work after the thaw. The chances that you’ll bring the frozen head back, memories and all, is the same chances that you can take a ground beef patty out of the freezer and make a cow of it However, while it’s impossible to do this with the entire human body, some scientists have still successfully used cryoprotectants to freeze and bring back many human organs, which has dramatic applications for things like organ transplantation.
This brings us to Cryopreservation, which has the primary goal of storing and reviving organ systems such as hearts, kidneys, and lungs for use in medicine. This goal has not yet been reached, and currently, only individual cells, small organisms, and embryos consisting of very few cells can be successfully treated, stored, and revived. One study showed that certain roundworms retained behaviors that they had learned before they were cryopreserved after they were vitrified and revived. Another study showed that sheep ovaries could be cryopreserved, thawed, and then still work after being transplanted, even when analyzed 6 years after their procedure. These studies provide some hope into what is possible. Not only that, but every type of cell has been successfully crypreserved, which is a small but significant step to the cryopreservation of human organs. Even with cryoprotectants though, larger multicellular structures like organs undergo a process called “Fracturing”, which can make it useless when transplanted into a patient. Luckily, researchers from the California Based instutue “21st century medicine” announced that they’d developed new cryoprotection techniques to preserve and then thaw a rabbit kidney, which was still functional when transplanted back into a rabbit. They are now doing the same with human kidneys, however, a kidney isn’t a brain, so we’ve still got a ways to go. The problem with this tech at the moment is that our cells are full of water and when you freeze water it expands into sharp crystals that turn our cells into mush. 80% of human organs are mostly water, so when the cell membranes break it will also wash out the contents. To prevent ice formation, we add substances engineered to act at a cellular level to deter formation of ice. Cryoprotectants are used in the same way Antifreeze is used to de-ice airplane wings. Cryprotectants work great for preserving 8-cell human embryos for IVF therapy, which can survive for a decade and still be implanted perfectly fine, but a whole human is a different story. The human body contains over 100 cell types. These different cells all have different biochemistry, each with a different cell structure from one organ to the next. A one-size fits all solution means a croprotectant will be effective across the entire raneg of cell types. This is not considered possible, because the chemicals might protect one cell type and damage everything else. So cryopreserving the cells of just a kidney might work, but preserving a body or a head, cryopreservation becomes exponentially difficult.Overall, it seems research in Cryogenics and Cryopreservation makes it clear that humans cannot survive being frozen and thawed out, but a new field of research called “Cryonics” takes a different approach, which involves outright killing a person on purpose to preserve the INFORMATION in their brains and bodies, all in the hopes that a technologicaly advanced civilization in the future will be able to extract it.
Unlike Cryogenics, Cryonics or “Medical Time-Travel”, is defined as the practice of preserving DEAD bodies in extremely cold temperatures with the hope of reviving them in the future, preferring molecular reanimation and data extraction rather than straight up thawing them out. That’s right, they straight up kill you and freeze your corpse. The rebuttal is that in the future, the far future whenever it is, they’ll know how to fix whatever physiological trauma that was threatening your now frozen body. The doctors of the future might use anything from nanobots realigning structural tissues, to MRI mind-upload scans of the frozen brain, all in the name of rescuing the consciousness of the person from its frozen state. The person could be kept in cryonic suspension for centuries or even millenia, however long it takes until the science of the future found a way to bring the preserved corpses back to life. Cryonics implies that a person isn’t truly dead until the memories, personality, and identity in the brain becomes lost, an idea called “Information theoretic death”, until then, frozen people are simply “deanimated”, not dead. The researchers rely on the premise that the current definition of death based on what situations of bodily decay today’s medicine would be able to reverse. Ever since sci fi author Rober Heinlein wrote the 1957 novel “The Door into Summer”, cryosleep and hypersleep finally became popularized in fiction. But Cryonics as a science started in 1962 with the book “The Prospect of Immortality” by physics professor Robert Ettinger, speculating that the best way to achieve immortality was to freeze your body and get to a futuristic world where immortality already exists. Ettinger got the idea from Sci fi pulp magazine “Amazing Stories”, which told the story of a professor obsessed with immortality freezes his body in a satellite until he’s found by an alien race millions of years later, who have achieved immortality by uploading their brains into robot bodies. Writers like Isaac Asimov supported his work, leading to internationally recognized fame as well as organizations and companies that wanted to put his ideas into practice. In Scottsdale Arizona, in the deserts of the southwestern US, the ALCOR life extension foundation has given birth to the so-called “Cryonics movement”. The company’s CEO Max More refers to these bodies as “Patients”, because according to them, they are not really dead since they have a chance at being recessitated and revived, no matter how small that chance is. Around 400 people have been cryogenically frozen at ALCOR since the 19 sixties. Including several noteable scientists and the baseball legend ted williams. Cryonics was once science fiction, but today many people take the idea very seriously. While the technology to freeze yourself does exist today, it’s not quite what you’d expect. When you think of cryonics, you probably think of futuristic see-through sci fi aquariums with people floating around in green liquid, but it’s actually just liquid nitrogen tanks, glass blood, and dark basements.
To maximize the chances of coming out in one piece, Cryonicists use a cutting-edge technology called “Vitrification”, which preserves the dead body in perfect detail, EXACTLY as it was when it died, preserving the information contained in the brain and body. Theoretically if our cells were not irreparably damaged then you could bring the person back to life as long as the future has the technology to cure the disease that was killing them.Fracturing is a highly destructive damaging process that slices through the tinyest cells to entire organs and even bones, but the labs of 21st centiury medicine, dr. gregory fayhee and his team have made remarkable headway in overcoming the problem. Fractures uysually occur below – 184 farenheit at a point called the glass transition tempoerature. This is when the chemicals in teh cryoprotectants turn into an ice free solid similar to glass, which is where vitrification comes in. Many companies, like ALCOR cryonics and the Cryonics Institute are already offering these service. You can get cryopreserved for the low price of 200,000$, if that’s a little rich, just the head for 80,000$ in the hopes that science would be able to revive you. The patients frozen at ALCOR’s facility put themselves in suspension for a variety of reasons, fear of death, love of life, cure for their disease, curiousity about the future, or even wanting to be immortal. Vitrification means replacing 60% of the water of the body with toxic preservation chemicals like ethylene glycerol and dimethyl sulfoxide that turn human tissue into an ice-free solid. But at above freezing temperatures these chemicals become toxic to the patient, so to bring a person back to life, science would not only have to reverse this, but also cure whatever disease killed them in the first place. Here’s how it works. After a patient is pronounced legally dead, hospital technicians stabilize the body in a tub of ice, and supply the patient’s brain with oxygen and blood. The process must begin within 2 minutes of a person being declared legally dead. Although the heart has stopped beating, the brain will still function for a short time after, so the surgeons have to act quickly and begin the cooling process 2 minutes after the person is declared legally dead. To buy themselves time, a heart-lung recesitator is used to stabilize the body and keep the brain supplied with blood and oxygen. It’s then packed in a refrigerator and injected with an anti coagulant to help keep blood from clotting. Surgeons will do a simple procedure called a thoracodomy, where they open up the chest, plug into the hreat, and flush all the blood out of your arteries, veins, and capillaries, since crystallized blood is dangerous when it freezes. They then pump in a medical grade chemicals to replace the water which makes up 70% of our bodies, keeping our cells ice free. The body must then be cooled very rapidly so it can get to subzero temperatures without damaging too many tissues. The suspended body is then shipped to the cryonics facility, where technicians replace all of the body’s water with a cryoprotectant called DMSO, which is essentially human anti-freeze. This way, when our bodily fluids freeze, the antifreeze doesn’t crystalize the way blood does, instead forming a glass-like solid that does not damage blood vessels and organs This is called Vitrification, it comes from vitrium, the latin word for “glass”. It’s is when you replace the liquid inside your cells with this chemical cocktail that doesn’t freeze or cut your cell membranes. Its been proven to work on freezing and reviving a variety of organs where cryoprotectants have failed, but it’s never worked on animals. DMSO, or dimethyl sulfoxide, is ideal because, unlike the water it’s replacing, it will not form ice crystals that ruin your organs and tissues. When DMSO is frozen it forms a glass instead, preserving your cells exactly the way they were when they died. But there’s a catch, DMSO is toxic to human cells when thawed out at room temperature, so whatever futuristic scientists are bringing you back will have invent a process where water is pumped back in and the DMSO is not causing significant damage. Once the water is replaced,. The body is then lowered into a larger metal tank called a “duer”, which is filled with liquid nitrogen to keep the temperature at -196 degrees celsius. Between 4 and 6 bodies are typically stored in each tank and are held with heads facing down to ensure the brains will be immersed in the freezing liquid in case there is a leak in the container. The thing is we’ve got no way to re-animate people that have been de-animated. Some scientists don’t think this process is sufficient enough to put a body in TRUE cryonic suspension. But assuming a person is successfully preserved, does that mean scientists could eventually bring them back to life? Well, with today’s technology, probably not, however, will it ever be possible in the future? Scientists are skeptical because the tech is unproven and no one has ever been successfully reanimated. To bring back a cryonics patient you’d have to cure what killed them, cure the toxicity caused by the preservation chemicals, and then, you’d have to jump start them back to life, maybe shock the heart into pumping again. Also , some scientists say the cooling process of modern cryotech takes too long, which means some of the brain cells could die. Of course many other activities kill brain cells too, it’s just a question of how many have to die before you are no longer “you”.
We can’t conclude one way or another if cryonics combined with the science of the future will lead to bringing a person back to life, but even a 1% chance is still better than zero, which has lead to a growing movement of cryonics enthusiasts demanding the right to be frozen as a human right. Kim Suozzi, a 21 year old girl, found out she had terminal brain cancer and asked reddit what should she do with the last few months of her life? Reddit commentators then suggested cryonic preservation and raised tens of thousands of dollars for her to be frozen with hundreds of other cryonic pioneers at ALCOR labs. Kim died of cancer a few months later and was successfully put into preservation after winning a court case for her right to do so. Oddly enough, Cryonicists don’t consider her quote unquote “dead” but rather just “de-animated”, as the information in her brain and body has not yet been destroyed. The process today is almost the same cost as a funeral, which evokes the question, why are we still paying for burial? In the near future, perhaps depressing funerals will be replaced by freezing ceremonies, where those who attend celebrate hope rather than mourn loss. But if millions turn to the technology, will we have the economy and infrastructure necessary to take care of them? Many might ask what incentive the humans of the future would have for reviving the people currently frozen in suspension, but it would probably be the same incentive we have to revive people from the past. There’s a lot we could learn from them, because history books are not always accurate and it would definitely helpful to have more vivid testimony. But if the cryonics company goes bankrupt before the proposed technology becomes available? Luckily ALCOR has circumnavigated this problem by signing up philanthropists and non-profits to keep the deanimated patients alive in case they lose the facility. It sounds fair, but what about natural disasters? The founders of ALCOR picked Scottdale arizona because it’s geographically isolated from areas where all main natural disasters in the US take place, no coastal tsunamies, no earthquake faults, no tropical hurricanes, no plains tornadoes, no taiga forest fires, and no harsh blizzards. In the event that the power does go out, ALCOR has backup generators powered by solar panels of the reliably hot arizona desert, so the facility can keep running even if all the people leave. Another problem is that Cryonics breaks the continuity of consciousness, so many might wonder if a renimated body is still them, causally speaking. Sleep and Anesthesia don’t shut down continuity completely, so that’s fine as the “I”ness isn’t interuprted. But would you still be “you” after being reanimated? Identity and “I”ness are certainly an issue, because a reanimated individual is ontologically no different from Philosopher Donald Davidson’s “Swamp Man” thought experiment. Would the thawed out person only have the illusion of experience while being an already dead person. While the reanimated individual may have the memory and knowledge of the dead indivdual, the dead individual would not be aware of the reanimated individual’s existence, and would not experince the reanimated individual’s subsequent interactions with the world. There’s also the idea of the soul, however, if the soul is something other than memories, personality, and consciousness, I don’t see how any particular person’s soul could be distinguished from everyone else’s. We also don’t know the effects on the brain. Just because our neurons are preserved in the same way they were when we died, doesn’t necessarily mean we will retain our memories and personality. We will also need to restart the brain after the DMSO is extracted and the water is added back in.We don’t really know how to fix everything without ruining the body again when we thaw them out. Some experts think we could eventually develop nanotechnology to fix cellular damage on a molecular level, or proteins that counteract the DMSO toxicity. So what would it take to revive these human possibles? We know that things like fracturing and some of the cellular damage will need to be repaired on the cellular level, so if futuristic nanorobots between 250 nanometers in length could ever be developed, it will revolutionize our ability to alleviate the effects of crystal repropogation and prevent a mushy brain. If we take mechanical concepts that we know at our scale, and shrink them down hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair, you could have gears, pulleys, levers, and bearings making up trillions of what are called “nanofactories” inside our cells. Nanoegnineers like Ralph Merkel is leading figure in this line of research and is even on the ALCOR board of directors himself. He is so confident in the idea of nanotechnology that he signed his own body up for cryopreservation. We can certainly envision nanoscipic repair devices that can go into cells, and on the drawing board, it doesn’t violate any of the laws of physics, it’s really more of an engineering problem. Nano scale machines and synthetic enzymes already exist for treating cancer cells, stem cell technology can already regenerate tissues, and we can even grow new organs in a lab, but there’s still a lot more research that needs to be done before we know if the hope of reanimation is worth the gamble. There might not even be a gamble at all, because there are no competing ideas. Worst case scenario, you have to give up that cremation or open casket you wanted in favor of something just as expensive, but at least offers you some consolation on your death bed. With cryonics in its infancy, there is little proof that revival scenarios will ever work, but even if it sounds implausible, it doesn’t really stop many people in the present day from trying. Before she was frozen, Kim Suozzi said you just have to have faith in technology. But reanimation doesn’t just involve the repair of vitrified tissue, but also the healing of whatever illness or condition killed the patient. So a future with the nanotech needed to thaw you out will also have to be a future with the biotech to cure aging, tumors, and infectious diseases.
But when it comes to legal issues, cryonics certainly does have it’s share of ethical baggage. Should we consider these patients alive, dead, or somewhere in between? How will consent be defined? Should your family be able to decide for you? Recently, landmark ruling in the british high court ruled that a 14 year old girl who had just died of cancer could have her body cryonically frozen after her parents disagreed about whether she should undergo the process. This is good news, because it means people from now on will likely be allowed to freeze themselves even if our loved ones disagree. Before she died, the girl wrote to the court saying she wanted the chance to live again, even if it took hundreds of years for the scientists to wake her up. But Cryonics is considered quote unquote “Alternative Medicine”, a term commonly associated with medical quakery. What if they’re just giving us false hope? The technology to revivie someone who’s been cryogenically frozen does not exist, and there’s no proof that it ever will, so should we still let them treat us? Should cryonicists be allowed to handle patients even though they have no medical licenses and are not registered with any medical association. Fortunately, the government considers cryonics patients dead for all intents and purposes, which gives them a loophole to circumnavigate bioethicists and do whatever they want, as long as the patient consents to being frozen. We need to start considering these issues, because the technology has finally started to gain widespread recognition. For the past few decades, Cryonics has been known to only a few thousand dedicated fans, but now celebrities like Seth MacFarlane, Simon Cowell, and Britney Spears have taken an interest in the technology and are pushing it into the mainstream. By the way, Walt Disney was never suspended, that’s just an urban legend, but all publicity is good publicity.
Arguments against cryonics https://hpluspedia.org/wiki/Arguments_against_cryonics
But what does this mean for us mere mortals who will never live to see the day when immortality is within reach? There is one chilling possibility that will give us all a chance to hang on, even after we die. We’re all genetically programmed to lust for life, and to flee from death. Eventually we will discover the secret of immortality, but we’re not there yet. To cheat death right now, we need to put aging on ice so . that we still have a chance at grasping eternal life long after life abandons us.
Cryopreservation is the preservation of living systems at very low temperatures, temperatures low enough that you can store the system as long as you want before you use it agaon, Greg Phayhee is a cryobiologist trying to preserve whole organs, but it’s a lot harder than putting food in the freezer. When biological material freezes, ice crystals form, which puts the cells out of their normal positions. When you thaw the organ, it might look ok from the outside, but the inside is damaged beyind repair. The biggest problem is mechanical, the formation of ice between cells. If cells are dislodged from their normal locations, then you destroy the function of the structure as a whole even if the cells survive. They focus their efforts on preventing bodily fluid from freezing and eventually instead turning them into a form of biological glass, a technique called vitrification, the formation of a glass, if you take water and mix it with various chemicals and then cool it to low temperatures the system will never freeze no matter how low you go, because it’s a glass. To test this, Greg’s team vitrified a rabbit kidney, we deliver cryoprotectants throught he vascular system of the kidney so it becomes unfreezable. The chambers are temperature conditions to minimize toxicity. It can then be taken out and transplanted, still working just as well as a normal kidney, even after being frozen after low temperatures. This is proof that vitrification works and might just be able to be used to recessitate frozen human bodies into the distant future. Calculations indicate you can store a system for thousands of years. Imagine being able to ut your body on ice and being revived 10,000 years from now, you could wake up to an age where science has made immortality possible. but that can only happen if cryopreservation works on the entire human body. Also the most complex organ of all, the brain. one day. Centuries after we say goodbye to our oved ones, our frozen bodies could be reanimated and we’ll walk the earth again.
man’s quest to cheat the grim reaper gave rise in the 1960s to a controversial idea that shocked the world. What if humans could be frozen, stored for decades, and then thawed out back to life. It’s a procedure known as “Cryonics”. The idea of cryonics is to keep people in that state so that they are legally dead but not biologically dead until we have sophiosticated enough technology to revive them from a cryopreserved state, and also fix whatever it was that they legally died of. 1966 Glendale california, 73yo James Bedford, a retired psychology professor, he answers an add put out by a newly formed grup, the cryonics society of Calidornia. They offered free freezing to the first person who agrees to undergo a little procedure called cryonic suspension. It resembles an emergendcy medical procedure where the blood washed out of the body and replaced with a olution. that protects the body against the extreme cold that we use in cryonics. But the real premise behind it is that once someone is preserved in liquid nitrogen, they can stay there for virtually thousands of years with no change in their condition. On Jan 12 1967, James Bedford is to become a pioneer ina bold experiment to live forever, as he nears his final moments, his physictian has enourmous vats filled with eyes. As he cleses his eyes and takes his final breath, they pack bedford’s body in ice. They drain all of bedford’s blood, replae it with antifreeze solutions and spend 8 hours freezing him solid in ice. He’s then flown to Phoenix and placed ina. liquid nitrogen storage capsul. The first person to be preserved. Bedford remains frozen immortality in the ALCOR life extension foundation, the largest cryonics facility in the world. 84 other patients along with bedford are housed in capsuls, literally frozen in time, they are not yet aging, but they are not yet ready to be thawed. We still can’t revive the people preserved today because we need cures for the things killing people, heart disease, old age, cancer, al need to be cured before we can wake these people up,. A patient is cryopreserved by a process called vitrification, which protects their bodies from decpmposition and cell damaging ice crystals. This is accomplished by pumping liquid notriogen, which keep their bodies at a constant 196 degrees below zero. in a way these are time capsuls, we are transpoorting someone who is incurable today to some future unknown point where medicine can treat them and cure what ailes them. It’s kind of a great last ditch insurance policiy, it s a way to say that if all else fails, you’re trusting that future technology will be able to fix whatever is wrong with you. Even your being dead. Maybe they are looking to that day where eternal life should be every person’s right. Will the frozen dead be ressurected and walking among us again to live forwever?We can’t revive the cryoprseserved with current technology, sbut i think we’re getting close so i pay a modest life insurance premium of a few dozen dollars every month to cryopreserve me if i become legally dead in the near future.
Cryonics is where we freeze the body in liquid nitrogen with a cocktail of cryoprotectants like ethylene glycol. We do this because freezing suspends its animation and we’re able to maintain our physicality and physiology for as long as we can. In 2013 a 23 year old woman named kim swozee was dying of brain cancer. if you’re a redditor you probably know who she is. She went to reddit and asked for help because she couldnt afford cronic suspension. She wanted to cryonicly freeze herself because she figured in the future they might be able to fix her terminal brain cancer. Most people come to cryonics institutes like ALCOR, which is where kim swozee went for a number of sdifferent reasons. Fear of death, love of life, tcuriosity about the future, or having a terminal disease. Imagine if you could wake up in the year 3000. But they also maybe just maybe want to live forever, a goal for some people. With cryonics you can de-animate people, they call it de-animation, what they do is replace your blood with a cold saline solution that cools your body temperature down, metabolic processes slow, and then they put you into liquid nitrogen. This works by anerobic glycolysis, which means when your cells can’t get oxygen externally they burn internal energy. You get 120 seconds tops of anerobic glycolysis, but when you’re froze that process has started but not finished, maybe you could get years, decades if we get really good. The problem with cryi=onics is that we can freeze people, but we can’t reanimate the,. But Kim Swozee said we have to trust in technology. Maybe we’ll see her again someday. As long as we’re trusting technology, why not forgoe the whole cryonics thing altogether.
bejamin franklin wrote to a friend in 1773. I wish it were possible to invent a method of embalming drownded persons in such a manner that they mght be recalled to a life at any period, however distant, for having a vert ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence. Today cryonics is the process of opreserving humans after death by storing them in liquid niorogen typically at 196 degrees celsius. In this cold storage state, metabolism and decay are nearly completely halted. Viruses, bacteria, sperm, eggs, insects, and even small animals like rana sylvania and some fish can all be cryogenically frozen, preserved for an indefinite time and then reanimated back to healthy life. Barrring social disruption, cryonicists believe that a preserved person can remain physically viable for at least 30,000 years, at least long enough for advanced medical technology to revive them. We don’t know what its gonna be that allows us to reanimate and restore health and youth, if anything but its a lot better odds to be frozen than to let the worms eat you. Its a very logical if you want to put it that way. The afterlife is a gamble to, it might not be there. Biut I feel the odds are good of a very good future coming out of this. If we look at history progress seems to get better overtime. The best part is that it’s the most effective, there’s notdeadline for the development of nanotech, if it takes an extra decade or 20 years to develop the tech to restore someone to good health, then it’s not a problem. It’s a big gamble, but at the rate the tech is defveloping, however bad your predicament might be, a century from now or a millenia from now, there might be a very good chance you might be brought back. There is nothing in cryionics that violates the laws of physics, there is absolutly no reason a body can’t be revived. It would take extraordinary manipulation of matter and biology, but the laws of physics do not strictly prohibit the revival.
Cryonics began in 1962 woth the publication of “the prospect of immortality” by robert ettinger, founder and the first president of the cryonics institute in michigan. It was founded in 1976 and for many years it moved very slowly. The first patient was his mother, the second, his wife. Now thay have almost a hundred, which doubled in the recent years due to the media taking notice. It’s still very small compared to the population of the entire world, but almost every day advances in medical technology make their position more credible and more people begin to embrace it. The process used to be expensive and only for the rich, but it is now easy to purchase it through insurance plans starting at 30 dollars a month. Today scientists at 21st century medicine are working on an advanced method of cryonics, a less destrcuctive method called vitrification, which will better preserve organs from freezing damage, which will help revival come even sooner.
one of the problems with conventional freezing methods is that ice crystals form and then irreversibly damage organs. We are preventing ice from forming no matter how cold you go in temperature. In principle you could go to absolute zero and never form an ice crystal. What happens instead is the system becomes a “solid liquid” in a sense, the liquid becomes slower and slower as you go to lower temperatures until it eventually stops moving altogether , at that point it becomes a glass no longer a liquid. That process is called vitrification for glass formation. There’s nothing about the arrest of molecular motion that’s harmful for living systems.
But if all else fails, you can always freeze your body after you die and hope that sometime after the future, scientists will be able to revive your frozen cadaver and bring you back to life. This is called Cryonics and you may have only seen it in films, but it’s actually real science. The process involves refridgeration the body in liquid nitrogen and replacing the blood with a cryoprotectant fluid to prevent ice crystals from forming inside the body and damaging the cells. The body is then suspended in giant steel containers and the temperature is then lowered to -196˚centigrade. There are currently 250 bodies preserved in this way, waiting for science to revive them and more than a thousand living people have signed up for the procedure. But it costs around 2000,000 for a full body presentation, or you can just get the head preserved for 80,000 in the hope that one day science will be advance enough to connect your head to another body and bring it back to life with all your memories preserved.
This would be better to be frozen then cremated or buried, in whuch case you’d have zero chance
Cryonics, or as Max More calls it, “Medical Time Travel”. But it is not discernible whether or not cryonics will preserve the subjective continuity of “I”ness or identity. The preservation of that continuity of vantage point requires the continuity of SOME sort of bodily function or process that does not get interrupted completely. So in cryonics, is there such a complete interruption? Yet, Cryonics has to preserve the body in as good a condition as possible for reanimation, if too many bodily processes are allowed to continue, it would defeat the point of a cryonic suspension. On the other hand, if there is a complete cessation of all bodily processes, not even some low key functioning going on somewhere, then that would be essentially the equivalent of the body becoming the coirpse. If you reanimate the corpse, are you going to have the same process of life and consciousness and sself awaremness in that reanimated body provided that everything else goes well. Or is that going to be a different process, a new process you’ve started up, again with similar content and some of the same memories if not all of the same memories. But would the person prior to that suspensiopn still experience what that reanimated person is going through, or would it be the same disconnect as an atom by atom copy of me that was assembled from scrathch btu is not having my experiences subsequently. An interesting question, and i don’;t haave a conclusive answer. Stilll, it’s cheaper than a funeral, better than nothing.
Can science of cryonics rewawken tthe dead. Or would it be akin to trying to recreate the cow from a hamburger. Our ticket to a second life may be cryuonics, when they die, these pioneering patients are preserved in chemicals designed to theorretically protect cellular structure, then they are immersed in steel tubes filled with nitrogen called duers, here they wait at -321 degrees F until science finds away to bring them back to life. So far there are just 2 organizations that offer the full service, the cryoinics institute in Clinton charter township Michigan, and ALCOR cryonics based in scottsdale Arizona and combined, they now have over a thouand members. Some choose to place their entire bodies, or for a cheaper price, just their heads or their brains (people who believe they want a fresh start. In ALCOR a whole body preservation is 150000 dollars or the head, 80000, usually paid for by a life insurance polcicy. The stabilizatio and cryprotection takes up the majority of that expense, the remainder of that money goes into something callec “The patient care trust”, established to care exclusively for the patients for the next century, priovidng for protection, maintenance, and ongoing expernses while also providing funding for eventual reanimation. Althoughn ALCOR employs several scienctists, there’s no legal requirement to be meddically trained to operate a cryonic organization, because the patient is technically dead, so medicine does not alive. But what if thios is giving people false hope and being conned. However, what if that’s a good thing, prioviding families with hope rather than sadness at a fineral. But cryonics is an unproven theory, we don’t know for sure. Cryonics techniques rely on the success of vitrification, this means replacing over 60% of the water in the body with potentially toxic preservation, including Ethylene glycerol and DMSO, when exposed to temps below 184 farenheit, these chemicals turn tissue into an ice fre solid, a glass. To bring th e patient back to life, science would not only have to reveerse this, but also cure whatever killed the patient in the first place. When you die, many changes occur ion the body, the brain deteriorates in a matter of minutes, so how would you actually reverse that?That’s something we have to gamble oin the unforseen future to fix. It gives families, parents, spusess, children, something to hold on to to give them strength. We could eliminate the world funeral from our society, and just tell children mommy is going to the “freezewr factory” rather than they have ceased to exist. Being frozen may sound unpromising, but it’s a better alternative to being burned or being buried. Cryonics doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better than the alternative, which is a coffin or funeral pyre. If we could drop the cost a little more, this could see wide adoption. If you have a chance at looking at the future for the price of a cable bill, would it not be worth it, even if it had a 1% chance of success?The foundations of society and religion are built on the certainty of death, but cryonics strikes at the very core of this notion. If it works, it’ll trigger a fundamental chage in how we define death, a definition continually shifting with medical breakthroughs. 50 yearsa ago, someone who’s heart stopped was dead by those standards, today we have defibrolation, CPR, and heart surgery, the definition of death is changing.This procedure could be worth it if you ever get cancer. Notify alcor if you have a terminal disease, where they’ll keep you close when you pas away. However, if you die far away from the procedure, ALCOR has transport vehicles they take out to a patient’s bedside and do the entire stabilization rpcioedure inside the ambulances on the way to the facility. As soon as a patient dies, the aim is to stop decomposition caused by oxygen deprivation, a process caleld hypoxia ischemia. Crucially, brain cells would be the first to die. Ince they’re pronounced legally dead by doctors, ALCOR tehcnicians place the patioent on a cooling apparatus, cover them in ice, and cool them down. For every 10 degrees there’s a 50 % reduction in metabolic demand, meaning it takes twice as long for any brain damage occur, so ALCOR uses this system with the purpose to keep brain damage from happening. Later, a mechanical chest compressor is then used to restore circulation before injecting a coicktail of medications to stop the blood from clotting, the patients blood is then replaced with a temporary protective fluid. Once in the operating room, ALCOR scientists perform a complex 7 hour long surgical procedure. First, a heart bipass machine pumps the cryporeservation fluid all around the body using the cardiovascular system. The problem with traditional freezing according to Gregory Fahy, thif you rip arpart the glue and extracellular structures that holds the cells together, even if the cells survive, they’re not going to do what they normally do when you thaw them out. And that’s the basic challenge with freezing an organ. To overcome this, Fahy replaces as much water as possible with kidney cells which can preserve the kidney cell structure below freezing temperature. Living cells never expect to encounter such alien conditions, life is predicated upon water and the very structure of cells is held together by the presence of water. All the chemistry that happens in the cell requires wateer. But we’re not asking just the cell but an entire organ to survive and do well after we replace more than 60% of the water in the cell. The chemicals are designed to mimic the molecular action of water. What we discovefered is its possible to fool the cell into thinking it’s as well hydrated as it normally would be. At alcor they’re trying to trick the human body into reacting the exact same way. A tall order considering 72% of the body’s fat free mass is made of water. Many believe the brain is the core of our identity, so it is given the most cryoprotection and least ice damage possible.To monitor the uptake in the brain they use surgical trepination tools to drill through the skull so we can measure how well the brain tissue is taking up the cryoprotectant. It’s important because it’s swelling they can adjust proticol, and if it’s shrinking they contiunue with existing protecol. The goal is to shrink the brain and pull out almost all the wat to prevent the formation of ice crystals later and preserve extracellular structures. The brain has to be kept just above freezing to prevent decomposition. Next they use acoustic probes that listen for fracturing events, a highly damaging process that slices through the tinyest cells to entire organs and even bones. At the labs of 21st Century Medicine, Gregory Fahy and his team have made remarkable headway in overcoming the problem., Fractures occur below -184 farenheit at a point called “the glass transition temperature”, when the chemicals in the cryoprotectants turn into an ice free solid similar to glass, a process called vitrification. The body is then transferred to an insulated cooling chamber which is pumped full of cryopreservation vapor. AFter 43 hours in the colling chamber, the body is transferred to a steel duer and taken down below the glass transition temperature. Cryomnics helps with the closure process, gives you a little bit of hope that someday you might see this person again. The damage caused by these toxic vitrification techniques will have to be reversed, we’ll have to be able to repair whatever damage was caused byt he technology in the future, and will also have to cure whatever it was that killed the individual. But here is one emerging area of science that may just offer hope, a future revolution in atom sized medicine, nanotechnology. Nanomedicine weill defintitinely have a role in reanimation in repairing fracturing and cellular damage will need to be repaired at the cellular level. Eaxh of these tiny nanobots are estimated to be only 250 nanometers in length, or 400 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Ralph Merckle is a key research figure in the world of Nanotechnology and also on the ALCOR board of directorsa and iss a member hiomself. We can take the mechanical concepts that we know at our scale, things that move and have mechanical interactions, and scale them down so you have gears and pulleys and levers and bearings, we are going to be introducing molecular machines, trillions and trillions of molecular machines, to repair the trillions and trillions of cells in the body. And this nanomedicine will revolutionizer our ability to cure and heal. It’s the fundamental reason we think that cryonics will work. But the role of nanotechnioklogy in the future of cryonics is hotley contested. Dr. James R. Baker does not think nanomachines will be possible with our technology, and instead seeks reanimation using the body’s own biological systems. But even if the body IS repaired, we risk the chance of the brain not being 100% identitical to the one frozen, so we are unable to predict the potential psychological damage. Then we’ll need to figure out what they’ll do for a living, how they’ll understand what happened to them, what if nthey lose theior memory, what happened in the time they were preserved. Think of a Futurama-esque level of psychological shock that would occur. But how do we know future society will look after them while in storage? There’s no guarantee a future society will care about them if they’re brought back. What if society changes dramatically? Would the society allow all these patients to be brought back? How does the story unfold, where will we be a century from now? Will there be an apocalypse? But it is very unlikely that future societies will bring us back to torture us. At worst, we would become zoo creatures, at best we would become revered historians and celebrities. People will wonder what the past was like and will want to learn everything they can from these living time capsules. Perhaps akin to how we’d treat say, a frozen Neanderthal man, like the sci fi film _____. These are all good objections, but I don’t think it is a good enough reason to do nothing. Maybe by looking back not forward, history offers a greater clue into the true feasibility of cryonics. We’ve seen flight to the moon made the transition from being science fiction to something that would actually occur. If you look at the history of science, you’ll find every major advance was met with critics who said it was impossible, impractical, unworkable, uneconomical, and of course when its demonstrated they announce that it’s obvious and knew it would happen all along.
Cryonics is the practice of freezing clinically-dead people in liquid nitrogen (N2) with the hope of future reanimation. Scientists will admit that some sort of cryogenic preservation and revival does not provably violate known physics. But they stress that, in practical terms, freezing and reviving dead humans is so far off as to hardly be worth taking seriously; present cryonics practices are speculation at best, and quackery and pseudoscience at worst. Nevertheless, cryonicists will accept considerable amounts of money right now for procedures based only on vague science fiction-level speculations, with no scientific evidence whatsoever that any of their present actions will help achieve their declared aims. (Cryonicists often point to presently-nonexistent “sufficiently advanced” nanotechnology or mind uploading as favored methods for revival.) They sincerely consider this an obviously sensible idea — so common-sense that one would have to be stupid not to sign up. Cryonics should not be confused with cryobiologyWikipedia’s W.svg (the study of living things at low temperatures), cryotherapyWikipedia’s W.svg (the use of cold in medicine), cryogenicsWikipedia’s W.svg (subjecting things to cold temperatures in general) or Whole-body cryotherapy (alternative medicine for the living).
Cryonics should not be confused with cryobiology (the study of living things at low temperatures), cryotherapy (the use of cold in medicine), cryogenics (subjecting things to cold temperatures in general) or Whole-body cryotherapy(alternative medicine for the living).
- 1History and impact
- 2So, how would cryonics actually work?
- 3The current state of cryonics
- 4Major problems facing cryonics
- 5Mainstream scientific and medical opinion of cryonics
- 6Cryonics advocacy
- 7Cooling processes known to work
- 8See also
- 9External links
History and impact
Origins of cryonics
Robert Ettinger, a teacher of physics and mathematics, published The Prospect of Immortality in 1964. He then founded the Cryonics Institute and the related Immortalist Society. Ettinger was inspired by “The Jameson Satellite” by Neil R. Jones (Amazing Stories, July 1931). Lots of science fiction fans and early transhumanists then seized upon the notion with tremendous enthusiasm.
Corpses were being frozen in liquid nitrogen by the early 1960s, though only for cosmetic preservation. The first person to be frozen with the aim of revival was James Bedford, frozen in early 1967. Bedford remains frozen (at Alcor) to this day.
New hope came with K. Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation, postulating nanobots as a mechanism for cell repair in 1986. That Drexlerian nanobots are utterly impossible has not affected cryonics advocates’ enthusiasm for them in the slightest, and they remain a standard proposed revival mechanism.
A major advance in tissue preservation came in the late 1990s with vitrification, where chemicals are added to the tissue so as to allow it to freeze as a glass rather than as ice crystals. This all but eliminated ice crystal damage, at the cost of toxicity of the chemicals.
(Cryonicists are very big on asserting that putting a human substantially made of water into liquid nitrogen at -196°C, turning them into a lump of ice, is not “freezing” at all but vitrification if you added enough antifreeze, and will get very shirty at people calling it “freezing” and claim this makes every further criticism wrong. In real medical technology, e.g. embryo preservation, vitrification is spoken of as a kind of freezing, which of course it is.)
Upon his death in 2011, Ettinger himself was stored at the Cryonics Institute in Detroit, the 106th person to be stored there. In all, about 250 people had been “preserved” as of 2015. There are about 2000 living people presently signed up with Alcor or the Cryonics Institute — the cryonics subculture is very small for its cultural impact.
In popular culture
Cryonics, in various forms, has become a theme in science fiction,, either as a serious plot device (The Door into Summer, the Alien tetralogy), or a source of humor (Futurama, Sleeper). Its usual job is one-way time travel, the cryonics itself being handwaved (as you are allowed to do in science fiction, though not in reality) as a pretext for one of various Rip Van Winkle scenarios.
As a fictional concept, “cryogenics” generally refers to a not-yet-invented form of suspended animation rather than present-day cryonics, in that the worst technical issue to be resolved (if at all) in the far future is either aging, or the cause of death/whatever killed you.
Timothy Leary, the famous LSD-dropper, was also famously interested in the “one in a thousand” chance of revival. He signed up with Alcor soon after it opened. Eventually, the cryonicists themselves creeped him out so much that he opted for cremation.
Hall of Fame baseball player and all-time Red Sox great Ted Williams was frozen after he died in 2002. A nasty fight broke out between his oldest children, who had a will saying he wished to be cremated, and his youngest son John-Henry who produced an informal family agreement saying he was to be frozen. This resulted in a macabre family feud for much of the summer of 2002. Williams was eventually frozen.
So, how would cryonics actually work?
Cryonics enthusiasts will allow that a person is entirely dead when they reach “information-theoretic death”, where the information that makes up their mind is beyond recovery.
The purpose of freezing the recently dead is to stop chemistry. This is intended to allow hypothetical future science and technology to recover the information in the frozen cells and repair them or otherwise reconstruct the person, or at least their mind. We have literally no idea how to do the revival now or how it might be done in the future — but cryonicists believe that scientific and technological progress will, if sustained for a sufficient time, advance to the point where the information can be recovered and the mind restarted, in a body (for those who see cryonics as a medical procedure) or a computer running an emulator (for the transhumanists).
Most of the problems with cryonics relate to the massive physical damage caused by the freezing process. Attempts to alleviate this cause chemical damage.
The current state of cryonics
“”Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
Cryonics for dead humans currently consists of a ritual that many find reminiscent of those performed by practitioners of the world’s major religions:
- Freeze the body.
- Wait for a miracle.
As the Society for Cryobiology put it:
“”The Society does, however, take the position that cadaver freezing is not science. The knowledge necessary for the revival of whole mammals following freezing and for bringing the dead to life does not currently exist and can come only from conscientious and patient research in cryobiology, biology, chemistry, and medicine.
In the US, cryonics is legally considered an extremely elaborate form of burial (At Cryonics Institute in Michigan), or as a donation to science (at Alcor in Arizona) and cannot be performed on someone who has not been declared medically dead (i.e., “brain dead”). Once you are declared legally dead, your fellow cryonicists swoop in to preserve you as quickly as possible.
The body, or just the head, is given large doses of anti-clotting drugs, as well as being infused with cryoprotectant chemicals to allow vitrification. It is then frozen by being put into a bath of liquid nitrogen at -196°C. At this temperature chemical reactions all but stop.
The body is stored upside down so that if staff are unable for any reason to “top off” the liquid nitrogen in the tank, the head will be the last part to thaw. The Cryonics Institute only allows for full-body freezing, but Alcor will let you freeze only your head. The heads are stored in the center of their dewars (big aluminum frozen coffins), so if your head is close to the top and they can’t refill it with nitrogen then you’re just out of luck.
You can also have your pet frozen, because future societies will not only be able and willing to resurrect centuries old humans, but Fido as well.
Scientific evidence for efficacy of current practice
Long-term memory is stored in physical form in the neural network as proteins accumulated at a chemical synapse to change the strength of the interconnection between neurons. So if you freeze the brain without crystals forming, the information may not be lost. As such. Hopefully. Though we have no idea if current cryonics techniques preserve the physical and chemical structure in sufficient detail to recover the information even in principle. Samples look good, though working scientists with a strong interest in preserving the information disagree.
Recovering the information is another matter. We have not even the start of an idea how to get it back out again. No revival method is proposed beyond “one day we will be able to do anything!” Some advocates literally propose a magic-equivalent future artificial superintelligence that will make everything better as the universal slam-dunk counterargument to all doubts.
Ben Best, CEO of the Cryonics Institute, supplies in Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice a list of cryobiology findings that suggest that cryonicists might not be completely wrong; however, this paper (contrary to the promise of its title) also contains a liberal admixture of “then a miracle occurs.” His assertions as to what cited papers say also vary considerably from what the cited papers’ abstracts state.
Alcor Corporation calls cryonics “a scientific approach to extending human life” and compares it to heart surgery. This is a gross misrepresentation of the state of both the science and technology and verges on both pseudoscience and quackery. Alcor also has a tendency to use invented pseudomedical terminology in its suspension reports.
Major problems facing cryonics
Keeping the head or entire body at -196°C stops chemistry, but the freezing process itself causes massive physical damage to the cells. The following problems (many of which are acknowledged by cryonicists) would all need to be solved to bring a frozen head or body back to life. Many would need breakthroughs not merely in engineering, but in scientific understanding itself, which we simply cannot predict.
- Liquid nitrogen at -196°C is not going to flash-freeze a head to the centre, any more than a deep fryer set to 200°C will flash-defrost something frozen dropped into it. It takes minutes, crystals will form, cells will break, proteins will denature.
- Freezing organs recoverably. (We already do this routinely with embryos and there’s good work, though little success as yet, on freezing and recovering organs. It attracts lots of cryobiology funding.)
- Cloning most of a body from recoverable DNA. (We’re closer to this one than any of the others below.)
- Nanobots. The popular conception of nanobots, which too many cryonics advocates seem also to share, is bollocks. Drexler’s computer-controlled nanoscopic miracle workers would need to violate physics. Nanobots won’t resemble the popular image of macroscopic industrial robots a billionth of the size with their own built-in supercomputers — they’ll be carefully designed chemicals, much like cells or enzymes (the real-life examples of nanobots). Things are different at nanoscale.
- “Nanobots!” is not the magic answer to everything any more than “really small tweezers!” is. Fixing the damage would have to be physically possible — which it may not be — and humans would still need to know how to actually fix whatever it was in order to program the nanobots.
- Cryonicists often say that it will be a “last in, first out” situation. This means that the last people to be frozen will be the first people revived, as the last people will be frozen using more “advanced” methods and then eventually science will be able to revive those frozen under more “primitive” methods. Without knowing how they will be revived, there is no way of matching a freezing method to the revival or knowing which methods are advanced than any other.
- Fixing the freezing damage to the original frozen brain. The dendrites (10,000 connections for each of the 100 billion neurons — that’s 1015 dendrites to check) are cracked badly by the freezing process — “acoustic fracturing events,” like when you drop an ice cube into a drink. What is the process for fixing a frozen brain that’s cracked into several or hundreds of pieces, with dendrites shattered at a microscopic level? This is a problem even with vitrification.
- Reattaching a severed head or transplanting the brain.
- Alternately: reading the patterns from the original brain and writing those to the cloned brain (uploading and downloading minds). Cryonicists speak of mind-uploading as if it’s a mere technical detail that’s just around the corner, rather than something that we don’t even know can be meaningfully discussed.
- The cryopreservatives that prevent ice crystal damage are themselves toxic and would need to be removed from the tissues. (This is really a pretty minor problem compared to everything else listed herein.)
- Cryonics needs to preserve a high proportion of the mind if it is to live up to its promise. But what is an acceptable threshold? A typical stroke patient loses ~5% of their brain (over 10% in some severe strokes). A severe stroke can be associated with loss of large chunks of personality and memory and the sufferer is frequently severely disabled afterwards, although stroke victims are still considered to be the same person (occupying the same body and all that). For comparison, an adult naturally loses up to 0.5% of their brain volume every year. For another comparison, hemispherectomy, removing half a person’s brain (as pioneered by everyone’s favourite neurosurgeon) is survivable with, thanks to neuroplasticity, surprisingly tolerable effects on memory, personality and cognitive function, particularly in young children. Of course, there is at present no evidence that cryonics preserves more than 0%.
- Once you’ve fixed the body’s cells and the brain paths, you have a recovered corpse. Your next task is to resurrect the dead.
This is the big problem. The existing cryonics facilities are charities with large operational expenses run by obsessive enthusiasts. They are small and financially shaky. In 1979, the Chatsworth facility (Cryonics Company of California, run by Robert Nelson) ran out of money and the frozen bodies thawed. The cryonics movement as a whole was outraged and facility operators are much more careful these days. But it’s an expensive business to operate as a charity.
The more general problem is that many cryonicists are libertarians and, unsurprisingly, have proven rather bad at putting together highly social nonprofits designed well enough to work in society on timescales of decades, let alone centuries. The movement has severe and obvious financial problems — the cash flows just aren’t sustainable, and Alcor relies on occasional large donations from rich members to make up the deficit.
Insurance companies are barely willing to consider cryonics. You will have to work rather hard to find someone to even sell you the policy. There are, however, cryonicist insurance agents who specialise in the area.
Furthermore, Alcor are distressingly slapdash and amateur in their procedures, as per the famed case of Kim Suozzi’s 2013 cryopreservation:
Within minutes of taking custody of the body, the bumbling Alcor team began experiencing a series of equipment failures. A temperature monitor didn’t work because, as it turned out, the batteries were dead. Shortly thereafter, their expensive mechanical chest-compression device stopped functioning. Then, having moved Suozzi’s body into a tub of ice, the Alcor team realized they’d forgotten to bring along a key piece of cooling equipment. Alcor’s after-action report, compiled from the haphazard “free-form” observations of an unnamed but “experienced” observer, determined that such mistakes could in the future be remedied by “the use of a checklist.” Now there’s a thought.
Of the early frozen corpses, only James Bedford remains, due to tremendous effort on the part of his surviving relatives. Though they didn’t do anything to alleviate ice crystals, so his remains are likely just broken cell mush by now.
Specific scenarios that would keep today’s cryonics from working
- Insufficient information being preserved by today’s cryonics.
- Nanoscopic repair, mind uploading or other “reanimation” technologies never being invented or turning out not to be possible, even if current techniques preserve sufficiently well and recovery doesn’t defy physics.
- A steep learning curve for future scientists. There will be a great deal of trial and error if efforts are made to revive corpses. If it is possible to revive a corpse, the first attempts will result in failure. An individual has no way to know if they’ll be one the “experimental” revivals or will only be revived after it’s perfected.
- Organizational or social problems meaning the frozen people aren’t preserved long enough.
- High future reanimation costs.
- Lack of interest from the future society. After they’ve revived a few thousand mediaeval peasants (from their perspective), why do they care about reviving you?
- Collapse of society or massive catastrophe.
- Who needs another corpsicle? It’s not like there’s going to be a shortage of humans in the foreseeable future. The bodies could be treated the way mummies from Ancient Egypt have been, being unwrapped at “parties,” put in museums, or worse. The corpses might just get thrown on a pyre for entertainment.
- The requisite technologies to successfully reanimate someone who died today into a healthy new body after being frozen for at least half a century could be used to restore youth on *any* person. That means eternal life would be available for everyone already alive and fighting for space… on a planet with limited space.
- The magical handwaved nano-tech abilities could also turn any brain into a super-brain. Whatever super-brains are in the future probably won’t care too much about typical human worries, and any matter in your brain and its final form won’t be up to you. The temptation will simply be too great to avoid making “improvements.” One way or another, it won’t be you who revives.
Reintegration issues after revival
“”Terry [dramatically]: Welcome to the world of tomorrow!!
Lou: Why do you always have to say it that way?
|—Applied Cryogenics technicians greeting the newly thawed, Futurama|
There are many medical issues connected with reanimation, but it is worth pointing out that a reanimated person faces numerous non-medical issues after returning to society. These might include:
- Culture shock — given that many older people have trouble keeping up with technology etc., someone out of the loop for decades or even centuries will experience quite a different world.
- Language — which will have changed substantially in the intervening period, or been replaced by one the person does not know.
- Finance etc. — the person would presumably have to support or fund themselves (or worse, be an indentured servant to pay for the unanticipated electrical bills from centuries of freezing). Many technical qualifications will be obsolete. The person’s assets may have also been mismanaged.
- Isolation — the majority of the person’s friends and relatives will presumably be dead.
- Ambiguous/complex legal status — Are you a citizen in the future? Are you free to go anywhere else someone born in that time would be?
- Moral Presentism — Future societies may view see actions taken by the person in their lifetime, considered normal by contemporaries, as anathema.
All of these could cause the person great social, not to mention psychological, problems after revival. The person may also experience an identity crisis or delusions of grandeur.
Mainstream scientific and medical opinion of cryonics
Cryonics is not considered a part of cryobiology, and cryobiologists consider cryonicists nuisances. The Society for Cryobiology banned cryonicists from membership in 1982, specifically those “misrepresenting the science of cryobiology, including any practice or application of freezing deceased persons in anticipation of their reanimation.” As they put it in an official statement:
“”The act of freezing a dead body and storing it indefinitely on the chance that some future generation may restore it to life is an act of faith, not science.
The Society’s planned statement was actually considerably toned down (it originally called cryonics a “fraud”) after threats of litigation from Mike Darwin of Alcor.
It can be difficult to find scientific critics willing to bother detailing why they think what the cryonics industry does is silly, though some will detail just why the fundamental notions of present-day cryonics practice are biologically ludicrous. Mostly, scientists consider that cryonicists are failing to acknowledge the hard, grinding work needed to advance the several sciences and technologies that are prerequisites for their goals. Castles in the air are a completely acceptable, indeed standard, part of turning science fiction into practical technology, but you do have to go through the brick-by-brick slog of building the foundations underneath. Or, indeed, inventing the grains of sand each brick is made of. (Some cryonicists are cryobiologists and so are personally putting in the hard slog needed to get there.)
Cryonicists, like many technologists, also frequently show arrogant ignorance of fields not their own — not just sciences but even directly-related medicine — leaving people in those fields disinclined to take them seriously.
William T. Jarvis, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, said, “Cryonics might be a suitable subject for scientific research, but marketing an unproven method to the public is quackery.” Mostly, doctors ignore cryonics and consider it a nice, but expensive, long shot.
Demographically, cryonics advocates tend to intersect strongly with transhumanists and singularitarians: almost all well-educated, mostly male — to the point where the phrase “hostile wife syndrome” is commonplace — mostly atheist or agnostic but with some being religious, and disproportionately involved in mathematics, computers, or physics. Belief in cryonics is pretty much required on LessWrong to be accepted as “rational.”
Hardly any celebrities have signed up to be frozen in hopes of being brought back to life in the distant future. (This may be a net win.)
Cryonicists are some of the smartest people you will ever meet and provide sterling evidence that humans are just monkeys with shiny toys, who mostly use intelligence to implement stupidity faster and better.
When arguing their case, cryonics advocates tend to conflate non-existent technologies that might someday be plausible with science-fiction-level speculation, and speak of “first, achieve the singularity” as if it were a minor detail that will just happen, rather than a huge amount of work by a huge number of people working out the many, many tiny details.
The proposals and speculations are so vague as to be pretty much unfalsifiable. Solid objection to a speculation is met with another speculation that may (but does not necessarily, or sometimes even probably) escape the problem. Cryonicists will often tell you that there isn’t any proof it won’t work. You will find many attempts to reverse the burden of proof and demand that you prove a given speculation isn’t possible. Answering can involve trying to compress a degree in biology into a few paragraphs. Most cryonicists’ knowledge of biology appears severely deficient.
Cryonicists also tend to assert unsupported high probabilities for as-yet nonexistent technologies and as-yet nonexistent science. Figures are derived on the basis of no evidence at all, concerning the behaviour of systems we’ve built nothing like and therefore have no empirical understanding of — they even assert probabilities of particular as-yet unrealised scientific breakthroughs occurring. (Saying “Bayesian!” is apparently sufficient support with no further working being shown under any circumstances.) If someone gives a number or even says the word “probable,” ask them to show their working.
One must also take care to make very precise queries, distinguishing between, “Is some sort of cryogenic suspension and revival not theoretically impossible with as yet unrealised future technologies?” and “Is there any evidence that what the cryonics industry is doing right now does any good at all?” Cryonics advocates who have been asked the second question tend to answer the first, at which point it is almost entirely impossible to pry a falsifiable claim out of them.
When you ask about a particularly tricky part and the answer is “but, nanobots!” take a drink. If it’s “but, future nigh-magical artificial superintelligence!”, down the bottle.
Incompetence rather than malice
Cryonicists are almost all sincere and exceedingly smart people. However, they are also by and large absolute fanatics, and really believe that freezing your freshly-dead body is the best current hope of evading permanent death and that the $30–200,000 this costs is an obviously sensible investment in the distant future. There is little, if any, deliberate fraud going on.
Some cryonicists considered the Chatsworth facility going broke to be due to fraud, but there’s little to suggest it wasn’t primarily the owner just being out of his depth.
Alcor have multiple reports of being incredibly careless with the frozen heads in their care. Despite suing to get a book on the subject dropped from publication and threating further legal action, their carelessness further came to light in the case of Kim Suozzi, a breathtaking saga of slapdash amateurism, particularly for an organisation that has been doing this for four decades.
Cryonics enthusiasts are fond of applying a variant of Pascal’s wager to cryonics and saying that being a Pascal’s Wager variant doesn’t make their argument fallacious. Ralph Merkle gives us Merkle’s Matrix:
|It works||It doesn’t work|
|Sign up||Live||Die, lose life insurance|
The questionable aspect here is omitting the bit where “sign up” means “spend $30,000 (at the Cryonics Institute), $80,000 (at Alcor; head-only), or $200,000 (at Alcor; whole-body) of your children’s inheritance for a spot in the freezer and a bunch of completely scientifically unjustified promises from shaky organizations run by strange people who are medical incompetents.” It also assumes that living at some undetermined future date is sufficiently bonum in se that it is worth spending all that money that could be used to feed starving children now. Or, if you care only about your own survival, on medicine today which is much more likely to extend your life.
Cooling processes known to work
“”When you freeze a steak and bring it back to edible, I’ll believe it.
The basic notion of freezing and reviving an animal, e.g. a human, is far from completely implausible.
- Cryogenics has proven usably effective for multicellular embryos (up to about eight cells) — it is widely used in in vitro fertilization to store them for later implantation, and the kids grow up just fine.
- There are many reported cases of humans (adult and child) who have had a severely lowered core temperature and been brought back to full health once warmed. (Of course, there are quite a lot more reported cases where they just died. And there are, of course, no cases of a human being frozen solid and surviving the process.)
- Therapeutic hypothermia (down to 32°C, from the normal 37°C) is routinely practiced in hospitals as a method of reversing ischemia damage.
- Experiments have been done involving suspended animation at temperatures higher than freezing, in which the life processes of a mammal subject  are reduced to almost nothing for a short period then brought back. Pigs can be taken down to 10°C and revived.
- The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is one of the simplest creatures with a nervous system. C. elegans will often survive freezing in liquid nitrogen with cryoprotectant chemicals, and the revived nematode is happily parasitic upon trees. This bears some resemblance to what current cryonics does. It’s a favourite of cryonics discourse as a simplest possible example. Alcor claims in a 2015 paper that revived C. elegans remember things they’ve learnt. The paper’s circumstances are dubious (obscure journal operated by transhumanists, one of the two methods not described & deferred to a still-unpublished paper), but at least someone did the obvious experiment at last.
- Alaskan beetle larvae appear to vitrify in nature.
- Some frogs have been frozen and revived quite reliably, and actually appear to have evolved to survive partial freezing. Cold-blooded animals in general are rather better at dealing with cold than mammals or birds.
- Insects freeze and revive pretty well. Freezing and reviving houseflies is reliable enough to make a nice magic trick.
- Tardigrades can survive being chilled for days at −200 °C (-328 °F). Some can even survive cooling to −272 °C (~1 degree above absolute zero or -458 °F) for a few minutes.
- A bacterium was revived after 120,000 years in a Greenland ice sheet.
- Small mammals freeze and revive surprisingly well, according to Smith et al. (1957), a sterling piece of mad science, with remarkable claimed success for half a century ago. Mice simply dropped in beakers of liquid N2 revived fairly reliably with careful warming, artificial respiration and electrical shocks, because they were so small they flash-froze. However, the females were infertile because large oocyte cells were particularly sensitive to ice crystals, and they suffered slightly diminished remaining lifespans for various related reasons. Bushbabies (a type of prosimian) were revived but died within 24 hours. The only problem with this apparently-promising study is the complete lack of replication any time in the past 50-odd years.
- Work continues in trying to revive neuron networks, which is one of the big prizes. So far a few neurons frozen under ideal (not current cryonics) conditions and then thawed look like they might work, though they weren’t actually restarted.
- Transplant teeth are preserved with expected viability of 40 years by supercooling to -10°C in a magnetic field, instant-freezing with no crystals when the magnetic field is switched off. This avoids toxic cryoprotectants.
- Best claims that cryobiologists have taken out a rat hippocampus, frozen it, inspected it and declared that it would possibly be viable (presumably, working when replaced). This would be very promising, except that the abstract of the cited paper does not claim any such success and only claims that the slice looked good. (The authors of the paper are cryonicists as well as cryobiologists, but appear to understand what brick-by-brick science and technology entails.)
- Viable eggs are recoverable from frozen mouse ovaries. This is, of course, not the same as recovering a working organ. Ovaries are not as complex as kidneys or hearts. This paper states that complete mouse ovaries were cryopreserved at liquid nitrogen temperature and rewarmed to produce live pup birth rates compararable to that seen with fresh ovaries.
- A rabbit kidney (cryobiologists like rabbit kidneys, and experiment on them a lot) was frozen to -135°C and retransplanted, and supported life. Best claims it “functioned well enough as the sole kidney to keep the rabbit alive indefinitely,” but the original paper does not go that far. The 2009 paper does show that the vitrified rabbit kidney when rewarmed was able to function as the sole functioning kidney — but only for a few days, not “indefinitely”. Best has since admitted that this was an erroneous interpretation on his part, but maintains that the study nonetheless has significance in demonstrating continued functionality in complex organs.
- Trials are being undertaken to rapidly unfreeze frozen tissues using nano particles and magnetic fields. This is the first step in the long term storage of frozen organs.
WILL WE EVER BRING THE CRYOPRESERVED BACK TO LIFE?
A teenager who tragically died of cancer recently has become the latest among a tiny but growing number of people to be cryogenically frozen after death. These individuals were hoping that advances in science will one day allow them to be woken up and cured of the conditions that killed them. But how likely is it that such a day will ever come?
Nature has shown us that it is possible to cryopreserve animals like reptiles, amphibians, worms and insects. Nematode worms trained to recognise certain smells retain this memory after being frozen. The wood frog (Rana sylvatica) freezes during winter into a block of ice and hops around the following spring. However, in human tissue each freeze-thaw process causes significant damage. Understanding and minimising this damage is one of the aims of cryobiology.
At the cellular level, these damages are still poorly understood, but can be controlled. Each innovation in the field relies on two aspects: improving preservation during freezing and advancing recovery after thawing. During freezing, damage can be avoided by carefully modulating temperatures and by relying on various types of cryoprotectants. One of the main objectives is to inhibit ice formation which can destroy cells and tissues by displacing and rupturing them. For that reason, a smooth transition to a “glassy stage” (vitrification) by rapid cooling, rather than “freezing”, is the aim.
For this, simple substances such as sugars and starches have been used to change viscosity and protect cell membranes. Chemicals like dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), ethylene glycol, glycerol and propandiol are used to prevent intracellular ice formation and anti-freeze proteins inhibit ice crystal growth and re-crystallisation during thawing.
But it’s not just the individual cells we have to worry about. In a frozen state, tissues are generally biologically stable. Biochemical reactions, including degeneration, are slowed at ultra-low temperatures to a point where they are effectively halted. Nonetheless, there is a risk that frozen structures can experience physical disruption, such as hairline cracks. Then, upon thawing, temperature fluctuation causes a series of problems. Tissues and cells can be damaged at this state. But it also has an effect on our overall “epigenetics” – how environmental factors and lifestyle choices influence our genes – by causing epigenetic reprogramming. However, antioxidants and other substances can help aid post-thaw recovery and prevent damage.
Reviving whole bodies also poses its own challenges as organs need to commence function homogeneously. The challenges of restoring the flow of blood to organs and tissues are already well-known in emergency medicine. But it is perhaps encouraging that cooling itself does not only have negative effects – it can actually mitigate trauma. In fact, drowning victims who have been revived seem to have been protected by the cold water – something that has led to longstanding research into using low-temperature approaches during surgery.
The pacemakers of scientific innovation in cryobiology are both medical and economic. Many advances in cell preservation are driven by the infertility sector and an emerging regenerative medicine sector. Cryopreserved and vitrified cells and simple tissues (eggs, sperm, bone marrow, stem cells, cornea, skin) are already regularly thawed and transplanted.
Work has also started on cryopreservation of “simple” body parts such as fingers and legs. Some complex organs (kidney, liver, intestines) have been cryopreserved, thawed, and successfully re-transplanted into an animal. While transplantation of human organs currently relies on chilled, not frozen, organs, there is a strengthening case for developing cryopreservation of whole organs for therapeutic purposes.
The biggest hurdles
Cryopreservation of whole brains is a niche interest at best. Experiments with frozen whole animal brains have not been reported since the 1970s. While factors like a good blood supply and high tolerance to mechanical distortion may facilitate brain freezing, particular technical and scientific challenges exist, especially where the goal is to preserve regulatory function and memory. Without huge breakthroughs in such research, it is likely to remain the one factor holding back therapeutic applications of whole-body cryopreservation.
But there’s another huge hurdle for cryonics: to not only repair the damage incurred due to the freezing process but also to reverse the damage that led to death – and in such a manner that the individual resumes conscious existence.
From a purely technical point of view, this added complication might be worth avoiding. For example, someone who suffers from dementia will have already lost his or her memory by the time they die and will therefore no longer be the same if woken up after being cryogenically frozen. Faced with this, patients with neuro-degenerative disorders who do not wish to live with the condition any longer may therefore seek to be frozen before death, in the hope that they will retain some memory if revived in the distant future. This clearly raises both legal and ethical questions.
So will it one day be possible to cryopreserve a human brain in such a manner that it can be revived intact? As explained, success will depend on the quality of the cryopreservation as well as the quality of the revival technology. Where the former is flawed, as it would be with current technologies, the demands on the latter increase.
This has led to the suggestion that effective repair must inevitably rely on highly advanced nanotechnology – a field once considered science fiction. The idea is that tiny, artificial molecular machines could one day repair all sorts of damage to our cells and tissues caused by cryonics extremely quickly, making revival possible. Given the rapid advances in this field, it may seem hasty to dismiss the entire scientific aim behind cryonics.
NEW FORM OF CRYOPRESERVATION ALLOWS US TO FREEZE WHOLE ORGANS
Using a mathematical model, researchers develop a new approach in cryopreservation, allowing them to increase healthy cell survival following vitrification from 10% with a conventional approach, to more than 80% with the new one.
In the life sciences, cryopreservation is the use of sub-zero temperatures to preserve structurally intact living cells. This includes tissues, cell cultures, blood, and semen.
At these extremely low temperatures, any enzymatic or chemical activity that might cause damage to the material in question is effectively stopped. Unfortunately, the method may also damage or destroy the samples, as the crystallization that occurs when water freezes may bring on harmful mechanical action.
To break that down a bit, when material freezes, ice crystals often form within it. These ice crystals can crush nearby cells, killing them or significantly damaging them. Indeed, they quite often do just this, which causes a number of problems for researchers who are working on cryopreservation.
Substances called cryoprotectants, such as ethylene glycol, are used to prevent this. However, there is a slight issue with cryoprotectants. Namely, they can be toxic. As such, they may damage or kill the very cells they are trying to protect, which is (of course) counterproductive.
But we may have a new way forward.
A NEW APPROACH
At Oregon State University, researcher just developed a mathematical model to simulate the freezing process in the presence of cryoprotectants, and they identified a way to minimize damage.
If cells are initially exposed to a low concentration of cryoprotectant, and time is allowed for the cells to swell, then the sample can be vitrified after rapidly adding a high concentration of cryoprotectants (water that becomes solid without freezing is said to be “vitrified”).
This results in less toxicity, with healthy cell survival following vitrification rising from about 10% (with a conventional approach) to more than 80% with the new one. The researchers go on to claim that the model should also help in identifying less toxic cryoprotectants.
Progress like this may allow cryopreservation of more complex tissues, and perhaps even whole organs. Tissues could be made in small amounts and then stored until needed for transplantation. Organs being used for transplants could be routinely preserved until a precise immunological match is found for their use. It could bring on a new era in organ donation.
(MY ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH) We are continuously improving the cocktail of stem cells, growth factors, cytokines, and cryoprotectants that we use for restoring frozen organs. Many pharmaceutical companies are screening compounds that make the most efficient cryoprotectants with no freezing damage so that we can even restore the activity of frozen brain tissue samples. We have already preserved the memories of nematode worms and can restore behavior reflexes after thawing them. Soon we will move to increasingly complex organisms like mice, or frogs, many of which already practice Cryonics themselves. The holy grail would be to attain reversible cryopreservation in animals like chimps, thawing them out using nanobots that would treat brain damage as we are brought out of low temperatures. But we might not even need to bring the bodies back, as we are also improving our 3D and layer by later brain scanning technologies to extract information from a frozen human brain. But this would require understanding the concept of consciousness, determining the brain sections resposible for memories, and the processes underlying them. It would mean identifying the connection between the electrochemical and biochemical mechanisms of a person’s thought processes so that we could restore memories using biological data about brain activity. We could hopefully then move onto restoring more complex mental processes like personality, recording brain scans on simulated neural networks. But this is a form of mind uploading, and is many decades away. If not more than a century. (MY ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH)
After he attempts the world’s first human head transplant, neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero plans to attempt another world first: reawakening a brain that has been cryogenically frozen.
ONE WORLD’S FIRST AFTER ANOTHER
Given the remarkable advances that have been made in medicine in recent years, it’s hard to believe anything is still truly impossible. Artificial intelligences are diagnosing diseases, real-life cyborgs walk among us, and we’re finding promising new clues on our quest for immortality. Even more remarkable breakthroughs are on the way, but if any one research team truly faces seemingly insurmountable odds, it has to be that of Professor Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group.
Four years ago, the acclaimed neurosurgeon announced his plan to complete the world’s first human head transplant, and this week, in an interview with OOOM, he confirmed that the controversial operation will take place within the next 10 months. According to Canavero, the operation will occur in Harbin, China, with Xiaoping Ren of Harbin Medical University leading the surgical team, and contrary to previous reports, a Chinese citizen, not Russian Valery Spiridonov, will be the recipient of a donor body.
However, the most remarkable news to come out of Canavero’s interview doesn’t have anything to do with the head transplant at all, but what he plans to do afterwards: “As soon as the first human head transplant has taken place, i.e., no later than in 2018, we will be able to attempt to reawaken the first frozen head.”
LIFE AFTER DEATH?
Canavero plans to remove the brain from a head that has been frozen at -196 degrees Celsius (-320 degrees Fahrenheit) and submerged in liquid nitrogen. He’ll then place the brain in a donor body in an attempt to effectively bring the patient back from the dead and, in the process, clear up humanity’s questions about the afterlife.
“If we bring this person back to life, we will receive the first real account of what actually happens after death,” said Canavero. “The head transplant gives us the first insight into whether there is an afterlife, a heaven, a hereafter, or whatever you may want to call it or whether death is simply a flicking off of the light switch and that’s it.”
Clearly, this is the stuff of science fiction, and the medical community — and society at large — has every reason to be very skeptical of its potential for success.
“The advocates of cryogenics are unable to cite any study in which a whole mammalian brain … has been resuscitated after storage in liquid nitrogen,” Clive Coen, Professor of Neuroscience at King’s College London, told The Telegraph, adding, “Irreversible damage is caused during the process of taking the mammalian brain into sub-zero temperatures.”
Even if it did work and the frozen brain did “wake up,” there’s no telling what kinds of complications the patient could experience, from decreased mental faculties to unimaginable mental trauma. Though we do now live in a world in which the seemingly impossible is becoming possible, some experiments might be better suited for works of sci-fi than modern hospitals.
- Current methods for keeping organs viable for transplant only last a few hours — and half of donated hearts and lungs are thrown out each year because they don’t make it to patients in time.
- A new technique using nanoparticles to heat the tissues at an equal rate means ice crystal formation — which ruins tissue — is avoided.
Cryopreservation is the process of freezing organs and tissues at very low temperatures in order to preserve them. While it sounds simple in theory, only a handful of cells and tissues have survived this method. This is because while science has successfully developed ways to cool organs to the very low temperatures required for preservation, thawing them out has proven far more difficult. As the specimen thaws, it forms ice crystals, which can damage the tissue and render organs unusable.
Right now, the process is only a viable option for small samples, such as sperm or embryos. Previous efforts using slow warming techniques have proven to be effective on samples of that size, but haven’t worked for larger tissue samples, like whole human organs. The inability to safely thaw the tissue has also precluded the theoretical concept of cryogenically preserving entire human bodies, with the intention of reanimating them later. The concept has roots in cryogenic technology, but is actually referred to as “cryonics”, and the scientific community generally considers it to be more science fiction than science fact — at least for the time being.
A recent study has made a significant breakthrough which may well begin closing that gap even more. Using a new technique, scientists were able to cryopreserve human and pig samples, then successfully rewarm it without causing any damage to the tissue.
As lead researcher John Bischof from the University of Minnesota notes:
This is the first time that anyone has been able to scale up to a larger biological system and demonstrate successful, fast, and uniform warming of hundreds of degrees Celsius per minute of preserved tissue without damaging the tissue.
By using nanoparticles to heat the tissues at an equal rate, scientists were able to prevent the formation of those destructive ice crystals. The researchers mixed silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles in a solution and applied an external magnetic field to generate heat. The process was tested on several human and pig tissue samples, and it showed that nanowarming achieves the same speed of thawing as the use of traditional convection techniques.
PRESERVING ORGANS AND SAVING LIVES
One theoretical application for this discovery would be, of course, bringing cryogenic life-extension techniques out of the realm of science fiction and into reality. But we’re not quite there yet.
A more practical application for the technique would be to safely preserve and store organs for extended periods, thus improving the logistical challenges behind organ transplantation.
According to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing, 22 people die every day in the US while waiting for organ transplants. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t because there is a shortage of organs being donated — it’s because organs cannot be preserved for more than a few hours. So, while there are available organs ready to be transplanted, the time it takes to find a matching recipient and transport the organ safely to their location often exceeds the window of time in which the organ remains viable for transplant.
Over half of donated hearts and lungs are thrown out each year because they don’t make it to patients in time. They can only be kept on ice for four hours, and while some organs can last longer than others without a blood supply during transport, it’s still not a long enough in many cases.
“If only half of these discarded organs were transplanted, then it has been estimated that wait lists for these organs could be extinguished within two to three years,” Bischof adds. With the help of cryopreservation technology, we may be well on our way to keeping donated organs viable for longer — meaning they could be transported to patients who need them even if distance and time stands between them.
GIRL WINS COURT CASE TO CRYONICALLY SUSPEND HERSELF
A 14-year-old girl won the legal right to have her body cryogenically frozen, despite a dispute among her parents as what to do with her remains after she died. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the girl hoped that in the future, there may be a cure for it, and then she could be revived. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence that this process can actually work yet.
The case was initially brought to court because of a disagreement between her parents about whether or not to respect the child’s wishes, who was too young to have her own will. While the mother was willing to fulfill her daughter’s desire to be cryogenically frozen, her estranged father was not convinced. Before the 14-year-old died last month, the court assessed the situation and ruled in favor of the girl.
The proceedings have only just been made public because the judge did not want to bring any undue stress or attention to the child while she was still alive. During the case, the girl was too sick to attend court, and so the judge visited her in hospital to make an assessment and better understand her request. The girl, known only as “JS”, also wrote a letter detailing her wishes. “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done,” JS wrote. “I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to.
“I think being cryo‐preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time. I don’t want to be buried underground. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance. This is my wish.”
After remarking on how he was moved by the “valiant” way in which JS was facing her problem after his visit to her, Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled in her favor. By this point, her father had also come round to his daughter’s wishes, and after she passed away her body was preserved and then shipped to the US, where for £37,000 her body has been cryogenically frozen and will be stored indefinitely.
The case has highlighted yet another fascinating cross-over where science meets law, something that will only increase further as more advanced techniques such as CRISPR develop. “It is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law, perhaps most of all to family law,” said Mr Justice Peter Jackson during the ruling. “No other parent has ever been put in [the] position [of JS’s father]. A dispute about a parent being able to see his child after death would be momentous enough on its own if the case did not also raise the issue of cryonic preservation.”
IN CONCLUSION, I see no reason to accept and arbitrary limit to living, our lifespans are not set in stone. When you’ve done the best you can and there’s nothing more you can do with today’s medical technology, cryonics is a last resort. They can wait decades, or centuries even, until scientists can repair the damage done by aging.