Humans are fascinated with the idea of breaking natural laws, rising above the limitations that bind us, and becoming the ultimate deciders of our fate. Cryogenics is back in the public eye.
As humans, we fear the fleeting nature of our lives. Whether it is time travel, cyborgs, or cryogenics, we are always looking for a new way to fight against the ever-ticking clock.
A fourteen-year-old girl won the right to be frozen after she died from cancer. She hopes that when a cure is found, she may be brought back to life.
This has renewed the debate around cryogenics and led many more to ask themselves … Would I freeze myself after death?
What Is Cryogenics?
This is simply the process of storing living cells, tissues, organs, or whole bodies at very low temperatures. The hope is that technology may be developed which allows us to resurrect the person who has been frozen. And hopefully, cure the disease which killed them in the first place. However, such technology does not exist at this point.
So How Do They Freeze You?
The process of cryogenics has three steps once a person has been declared legally dead.
The body is immediately placed in an ice bath. A mask is used to provide the body – the brain in particular – with oxygen. CPR and chemicals which prevent coagulation are used to maintain blood flow. Body temperature is also monitored to ensure a gradual reduction.
The second step is known as vitrification – this is where the cells and organs are prepared for low temperatures. This means replacing the body’s fluids with injected cryoprotective agents, which essentially act as antifreeze. This protects the body from any damage that could occur as a result of freezing.
Finally, the body is placed in a protective insulating bag and then inside a cooling box. Liquid nitrogen is fed into the packaging at a steady rate. This takes place over several days until the body reaches minus 200 degrees Celsius.
Fast Fact: The vessels are not powered by electricity and, therefore, not affected by outages.
The Other Option Is Neuropreservation
This is cheaper and amounts to simply preserving your head. It is based on the assumption that your brain holds all the most important information and that your body could be cloned.
Is It Worth It?
Scientists who work with it are skeptical.
Dr. Channa Jayasena is the clinical senior lecturer in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London. He says: “It is currently science fiction to suggest that a person could be brought back to life in the future, even considering technological advances. Cryonics has risks for the patient, poses ethical issues for society, is highly expensive, but has no proven benefit. If this was a drug, it would never get approved.”
Barry Fuller is a professor in surgical science and low-temperature medicine at University College London. He says: “Cryopreservation is a remarkable technology which allows us to store living cells, almost indefinitely, at ultra-low temperatures. It has many useful applications in day-to-day medicine, such as cryopreserving blood cells, sperm, and embryos.”
He adds: “Cryopreservation has not yet been successfully applied to large structures, such as human kidneys. This is because we have not yet adequately been able to produce suitable equipment to optimise all the steps. This is why we have to say that at the moment, we have no objective evidence that a whole human body can survive cryopreservation. At the moment, we cannot achieve that.”
Cryonics UK is a nonprofit organization. They say that cryopreservation cannot be guaranteed to work and that it’s up to the people who want to try it to decide.
Fees start at $28 000 and go up to $200 000. These are paid upon death by either the patient or their insurance policy.