Cryonic Preservation: Science Fiction or Cure for Death?by L-Johnson
If you haven’t heard the urban legend surrounding Walt Disney, or seen an episode of Futurama, Cryopreservation is the technology of freezing one’s body in the hopes that technology in the future will allow for reanimation. This idea that cryopreserved people can be recovered in the future is still hypothetical, since nobody can know for sure what medical and scientific advances the future holds. However, cryonics is supported by many scientists; an open letter of support for the procedure has been signed by 61 scientists.
Cryonic preservation may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, but with today’s medical advances of cloning and stem-cell research, the possibility of a body being restored from a “frozen” state may not be an idea of fiction many years from now. The idea of a heart transplant was laughable when first theorized.
The hope that these patients will be successfully restored in the future is based on the following: The brain doesn’t necessarily die after 5 minutes without oxygen, but when circulation is restored past the 5 minute mark, blood vessels will swell and stop blood flow, resulting in the death of all brain cells. So after 5 minutes of no oxygen to the brain, is all hope lost? Maybe not; in the few hours following cardiac arrest, the biological changes are theoretically reversible. We just don’t have the technology yet. That’s where the preservation comes in: Patients are stored under liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196°C / -320°F. Patients aren’t frozen; The process is known as vitrification, which is like freezing but without any damage caused to tissues from ice crystal formation. At these sub-zero temperatures, any biological activity is stopped in its tracks.
There are several Cryonics organizations who are not only doing research to advance the procedure, but are currently performing the suspensions and handling the caretaking of multiple patients. The biggest of these companies is probably Alcor Life Extension Foundation located in Scottsdale, Arizona which currently has 968 members and 111 actual patients.
So is Cryonic preservation possible? Absolutely, there are hundreds of patients as we speak. The question, however, is if science be able to bring them back in the future. Only time will tell!