Understanding Cryonics - Part 2 - Vitrification & Storage
In part 1 of ‘Understanding Cryonics’, we took a brief look at the science and technology behind freezing the recently dead with the hope of reviving them at a future time. As I learned while researching this piece, and as I hope you gathered as well, the theory of it does hold some logical promise. At first I was especially resistant to the concept of people signing up to be decapitated immediately after death and having only their heads preserved until cloning becomes as commonplace as open heart surgery. But, after pondering it for a bit, this method of preservation actually began to make even more sense to me then whole body suspension. I mean, why go through all of that, wait to have cancer cured, only to come back into a 70 year old body that’s likely to have something else go fatally wrong with it at any time? So I rationalized that at least until I could be cloned into a younger, healthy, vibrant body, why bother coming back at all? And if it never happens, oh well, I mean I’m already dead, right? So what if it takes a few more years in limbo to be able to come back with a full life to look forward to, instead of just buying a few more years?
Good questions to think about, and why I decided to add at least a 5th , and possibly a 6th segments to this series, focused entirely on the morality and religious implications of cryonics. I promise you won’t want to miss those, as I will be interviewing religious leaders from several religions to get their take on cryonics, and whether or not they feel it’s trying to play God, or cheat death. Now, on to vitrification.
The term vitrification means many things to many different schools of science (I know, I Googled it.) For the purposes of cryonics, vitrification means simply the process of preparing a subject to withstand temperatures as low as -130 degrees Celsius (-202 F) and to prevent the formation of ice crystals in a suspended body at those temperatures. Most commonly used today is a glycerol-based solvent which is inserted into the subject body to replace the water which would freeze when flash frozen and destroy tissue, cells and organs, making the subject body unrecoverable. The down side is, this glycerol-based solvent does not work in preserving complete organs. There is a company, however who has revolutionized a proprietary cocktail which has already been successful in vitrifying a rabbit kidney, cry suspending that kidney to -135C, rewarming it, and transplanting it into a healthy rabbit. That rabbit lives on and is quite healthy to this day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitrification.Continued on the next page