Every human being once in a lifetime thought of being immortal. Many religions and myths stories talk about immortality or resurrection. These stories are hinged on the idea of Cryonics which in Greek means cold. It is a preservation process of a human corpse or head freezing it at a low temperature which usually ranges -196 ̊C or -320.8 ̊F or77.1 K. Cryonics is the hope of resurrection in the future.
This concept came to life by two persons, Linda and Fred Chamberlain. They are the founder of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona founded in 1972. The couple met at a cryonics conference in early 1970. The idea of saving lives and a second chance at life attracted them to establish such an organization.
The process of Cryonics starts when a human is officially dead. The medical team comes and cools down the body with ice and water keeping the body’s tissues oxygenated using CPR and an oxygen mask. After this process, the body is sealed in a container and is send to the cryonic facility. In the designated facility the body is put into a machine similar to a heart-lung bypass machine where they circulate the blood maintaining oxygenation. Next is the process of vitrification where they pump antifreeze solution in the body to minimize the damage of the body’s tissues from forming ice crystals. The final step is to slowly cool down the body temperature to -320 ̊F in a liquid nitrogen vapour chamber. Once the body is cold they are transferred to Thermos like tank filled with nitrogen till the day medical technology is hopefully able to revive them.
This process is an expensive process that costs approximately $28,000 to $2,00,000. The process of Cryonics has changed from where it has started. Now cooling the body is not the priority but saving the brain from ice crystals is. So now the process of “vitrification” has become very essential. People cryonicist full body or the brain. Life insurance becomes an important thing to store cryonic bodies for an indefinite time. Bodies are re-filled with liquid nitrogen after a week and the temperature is monitored through computers.
This thermos tank which is known as “dewar” can hold four full bodies around outside and five “neuro patients” down the center. These bodies are placed carefully into the liquid nitrogen. Full-body patients are preserved head down to ensure that the vital part of the body-the head will remain cold, even if liquid nitrogen boils off.
James Bedford, a former University of California-Berkeley psychology professor who dies of renal cancer on June 12, 1967, was the first human body cryonically-preserved. After Alcor was found his body was shifted to its facilities and has been there since 1991. 300 bodies and brains have been preserved in the world’s three cryonic facilities: “Alcor”, “the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan” and KrioRus. 3000 people still living have joined them upon what cryonicists call “deamination” or death.
What are the drawbacks and could go wrong in this process ?
According to scientists, “There is absolutely no current way, no proven scientific way, to freeze a whole human down to that temperature without destroying which means obliterating the tissue.” When scientists attempt to freeze a sample of living human tissue such as a piece of a liver, during this process the cell membrane of the liver tissue is completely destroyed. So if we see the process of cryonic then there’s no proof that we are actually preserving anything, that’s because science is just not there yet.
Experiments show that some animals can survive being frozen and then thawed, like Canadian wood frogs because this organism has evolved in such a way that they can handle extreme temperature but the human body is not capable of it. Human tissues cannot survive such extreme temperatures.
If we think about reviving the cryonic bodies, then first we require to repair the damages caused by lack of oxygen, cryoprotectant toxicity, thermal stress, freezing in tissues that do not successfully vitrify, any organ failure, and most important reversing the cause of death to live a second life like a youth. Tissue regeneration is very important.
If we keep aside every argument whether it is a solution for a long life span and had a chance of resurrection with advanced technologies in the future, will it be worth it? Living without things that made life worth living for and in a strange world alone.
Visuals by: Anupal Deuri Bharali
Article by Sroweta Kar, The North-Eastern Chronicle