Cryonics. What is it?
Cryonics is namely the method by which human bodies are preserved at extremely cold temperatures with the hope that future technology and medicine may be able to resuscitate them in better health than they were in when they died. The basic concept being, if someone has deceased from a disease that is incurable contemporarily, he/she can be “frozen” and then revived some point in time in the future when hopefully a cure has been discovered. Any person preserved this way will be said to be in “cryonic suspension”.
To get an inkling of the complex technology involved in cryonics, think about the news stories that you’ve heard of people who after having fallen into an icy lake and having been submerged for up to an hour in the icy cold water have been rescued. The ones who survived did so because the ice-cold water put their bodies into a form of suspended animation of sorts, slowing down the metabolic activity of their body and their brain function to such a point where oxygen was almost not needed.
But remotely speaking, cryonics is a tad bit different from being resuscitated after a silly fall into an icy lake. Firstly, it’s not strictly speaking, legal to perform cryonic suspension on someone who hasn’t yet died. People who undergo cryonic suspension must first be pronounced legally dead – i.e., their heart must have stopped pounding. But a question arises here. If these people are actually dead, how can they ever be brought back to life?
According to the scientists who perform cryonics, being “legally dead” is not the same as being “totally dead.” Total death, as it is said by them, is the point at which all brain functions cease whilst legal death occurs when the heart stops beating, but a few cellular brain functions remain. Cryonics preserves the little cell function that’s left so that, theoretically speaking, the subject can be resuscitated or brought back to life in the future when technology has progressed enough.
Working of Cryonics. How is Cryonic Suspension performed?
If somehow, out of your insanity or deranged sanity, one or all of you decide to preserve yourself in cryonic suspension, what will happen to your body or any part of your body that you wish to revive for future use? Well, firstly, you will need to apply for membership in a cryonics facility and pay an annual membership fee (in the range of about $400/500 a year). Then, when your heart will stop beating (finally!) and you will be pronounced “legally dead,” a quick emergency response team from the facility will put on its God speed costume and spring into action. The team will stabilize your body, supplying your brain with adequate oxygen and blood to preserve minimal function until you can be transported to the suspension facility. Your body will be then skillfully packed in ice and injected with Heparin (an anticoagulant) to prevent your blood from clotting during the journey to the cryonics facility. An expert medical team will cordially await the arrival of your motionless body at the cryonics facility.
As soon as you are transported to the cryonics facility, the actual “freezing” process will initiate. Cryonics facilities can’t simply put their patients or members into a vessel of liquid nitrogen, because the water inside their cells would then freeze. When water freezes, it expands — this would cause the cells of the body to shatter completely. The cryonics team will first remove water from your cells and replace it with a glycerol-based chemical mixture called a cryoprotectant — an antifreeze sorts of agent. The goal is to protect the organs and tissues against the formation of ice crystals at increasingly low temperatures. This process that is known as vitrification (deep cooling without reaching freezing temperatures), will put the cells into a state of suspended animation.
When the cryoprotectant is added in your body to replace water, your body undergoes a smart cooling process. Your body is placed on a bed of dry ice until it attains -130 Celsius (-202 Fahrenheit) temperature, thus completing the process of vitrification. The next step is to rest your body into a separate container that is then placed into a large metallic tank filled with liquid nitrogen at a temperature of approximately -196 degrees Celsius (-320 degrees Fahrenheit). Your body is kept head down, so if there ever occurred a leak in the tank, your brain wouldn’t be subject to any kind of damage as it would still be immersed in the freezing liquid.
As far as the pricing for Cryonics is concerned, I’d have to tell you that cryonics isn’t cheap – it can cost up to $150,000-$200,000 to have the whole of your body cryo-preserved. But for the thriftier futurists, a meagre $45,000 will have your brain or your head preserved for perpetuity — an option known as “neuro-suspension”. It is hoped that for all those who have been preserved using “cryo-suspension” or “neuro-suspension”, technology will eventually come up with a way to clone or regenerate the rest of the body.
Is Cryonics really practical or just experimental? Has anyone been preserved using Cryonics and has anyone preserved been brought back to life up till now?
Dozens of people are currently being stored in cryonic facilities. The first person ever to opt for cryonic-preservation was a 73-year old psychologist named Dr. James Bedford who’s in cryo-suspension from the year 1967. Preserved in the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, that is the largest cryonics facility currently operating in the world, Dr. James Bedford’s body is reportedly still in good condition. Probably the most famous of all cryonically preserved persons is the famous baseball legend “Ted Williams”.
As far as the practicality of cryonics is concerned, it is still under debate as critics often criticize that companies performing cryonics are simply milking people out of their wealth with the dubious promise of providing immortality As no one has actually been revived, the doubts are risen every day. But then again, it is because the technology to do so still does not exist.
But all hope isn’t lost. Some people do take bold risks on the hope that someday they might rejoin the human race that’s far more advanced and peaceful than the one they’re leaving behind. Or even worse. What is to lose when someone has already died. Money? Well what use is money to a dead person. Some Cryo-biologists predict that the first cryonic revival might occur somewhere around the year 2040. All hands on deck!