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If you’ve ever seen the Austin Powers movie I’m sure you remember the part where they cryogenically freeze Austin and then thirty years later thaw him out to save the world. While we all know Austin Powers isn’t real, I’m sure you wondered if this freezing could be done in real life. Today we will look at what exactly cryonics is, what businesses claim to provide it, the procedure and its risks.
Cryonics is the freezing of humans to preserve them for a later time. Yes, it is a possibility. In fact there are several businesses that offer these services. Two of these businesses are “The Cryonics Institute” and “The Alcor Life Extension Foundation.” Alcor Life Extension Foundation calls this process Cryotransport. The cryotransport process begins, according to their website, as soon as possible after legal death. The patient is prepared and cooled to a temperature where decay stops, and is then kept in this cooled state called cryostasis until medical science has advanced enough to bring the person back to life when life extension and anti-aging have become a reality.
However, there is a lot of damage done to the body during this freezing, says Dr. Ralph Merkle, a professional in the field of cryonics. First there are fractures that form in the frozen tissues caused by thermal strain, if you were warmed up you’d fall into pieces as if cut by thousands of sharp knives. And Second, the Cryotransport is used as a last resort because legally the Cryotransport can’t even begin until the patient is legally dead. So when the patient comes out he is already sick and may have a hard time coming back from the injuries of being frozen. Even after knowing all this Dr. Merkle says Cryotransport will almost surely work. Why? He says because basically people are made up of molecules and if they are arranged right then the person is healthy, if not the person is either sick or dead. With technological advances he thinks we will be able to make and rearrange the molecular structure of the frozen tissue. In the future, we will be able to stack and unstack these molecules like Lego blocks. Once the molecules are arranged correctly the person is healthy.
Death, once we have this technology, really won’t be the same. You couldn’t be truly dead unless cremated; torn apart or destroyed in some other way that there would be no way to tell where these molecules are supposed to go.
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So, how can you tell if someone has been injured beyond all help, both today and in the future? Clinical trials. These are actually pretty easy. They take a patient freeze them and then see if in a century or more from now if they can be revived. These trials are actually going on right now. As I told you before there are several businesses offering this service right now. With cryonics the potential harm of it is small since the person is already dead it can’t get much worse. But the benefits are great since there is a possibility for full restoration of health. If there is any chance of success then Cryotransport is certainly preferable to death.
There is also the question of if the patient will still remember their life and still have the same personality. The evidence today suggests that if done under favorable circumstances Cryotransport would not result in the loss of either. But not all cryotransports are done under these favorable circumstances. In the future we will be able to rearrange the molecules in the neuro system which controls memory and personality, by using local information about the healthy structures to fix the local damaged neurons. If not done under the favorable conditions the local neurons may be totally ruined so when put back together won’t be exactly the same causing a change in personality and loss of memory. There is no guarantee you will be the same.
So how can this be done under the “favorable conditions”? The Alcor Life Extension Foundation thinks they have found a way. After death a standby team will be there right away, prepared to immediately start cooling and administer the needed intravenous medications. These medications will be circulated through the body by using external chest compressions just like with CPR. This standby phase protects the cells from the biological transitions that would ruin the structures. Next the patient would go through the initial transport process. While temperatures are rapidly lowered the patient is transported to a site where surgery can be preformed; here the blood is replaced with a solution that lowers the body temperature to about 5 degrees Celsius. The next step is called washout; the brain is drained of blood. If this is not done the brain may still remain warm for a long time causing the medications used earlier to not work properly. The next step is cryoprotection once the patients core temperature reaches 5 degrees Celsius the patient is brought to their primary facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cryoprotection consists of the replacing of body water with glycerol to minimize the damage that results from crystallization of water as the body temperature is lowered to the same temperature as liquid nitrogen, 320 degrees below zero F for the long term storage. The last step is cool down where the body is placed in liquid nitrogen which is naturally cold so there is no need for extra energy making it cheaper. Alcor says that right now there is no way for these patients to be safely revived but they hope it will be possible in the future.
If this service was free we would have no reason to question the possibilities but since its not we have to ask if it’s worth it. Which is a question you must ask your self, W