Facts About Cryonics You Need To Know
With the advancement of medical technology, biostasis aka cryonics is slowly becoming a more accepted topic. You don’t need to have nerdy friends anymore to start a conversation about cellular rejuvenation, space travel or even immortality. Many people have heard at least once in their life about cryonics. And would be interested in a conversation about the implications of successful revival in our society. Here are some interesting facts about cryonics you need to know. Maybe, next time you go out, you can use them to break the ice 😉
There are 5 cryonics facilities in 4 different continents
Cryonics facilities have to be located in areas that are safe geographically, politically and economically. This is because they have to store the patients for an unlimited amount of time, until revival is possible. They can’t be built, for example, in areas that have a high risk of natural disasters or war. Clearly, it’s not that easy to find spots that meet all the requirements.
Currently, biostasis providers found 5 extremely safe places to build their long term storage facilities:
- The European Biostasis Foundation’s (EBF) facility, in collaboration with Tomorrow Biostasis in Rafz, Switzerland, Europe.
- Alcor’s facility , which was originally in California, and is now based in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
- The Cryonics Institute’s facility, the one with the highest number of people stored, is located in Clinton Town, Michigan, USA.
- In Jinan, Shandong, eastern China, there is the The Shandong Yinfeng Life Science Research Institute.
- And finally there is the Southern Cryonics’ facility, located close to Sydney, Australia.
And guess which continent would be the worst for a cryonics facility? Antarctica.
If you have some basic knowledge about cryonics, you may see why a facility in Antarctica wouldn’t work. First of all, it would be harder and more expensive for the standby team to reach you fast. Both climatewise and transportation wise. Secondly, it would be also hard to bring you back to the facility, to complete the procedure. Thirdly, it would be hard to get the necessary liquid nitrogen delivered to keep you stored indefinitely. And your family members wouldn’t be able to visit you easily, if they wanted. For these and many more reasons, the coldest continent on the planet is not a great place to store “freezed people”.
Finally, there are no facilities yet in Africa and South America. People interested in biostasis living in these countries have to select a facility elsewhere. If the demand in these specific continents grows, it’s very likely that biostasis providers will find specific solutions.
The “father of cryonics” has been stored for only 10 years
In 1962 Robert Ettinger published his book “The Prospect of Immortality”. This work is globally recognized as the starting point for cryonics. All the advancements that have brought this field to what it is now stem from Ettinger and this book. It was about 60 years ago.
Ettinger lived many years after he publicly shared the idea of cryonics suspension. While he was alive, the biostasis technology developed greatly. Today, our techniques are better than 60 years ago. For example, vitrification was introduced only around 2006. Today all standby teams are trained to perform vitrification. This technique helps reduce the damage caused by using low temperatures on the tissues.
Robert Ettinger died in 2011 at the age of 92 years old and was CI’s 106th case. If you are interested, you can read about how his family prepared to assure the fastest perfusion and cryopreservation possible. Thus, he has been cryopreserved for just about 10 years.
There are more than 250 pets currently cryopreserved
Do you wonder why someone would cryopreserve their pet? Imagine being revived in 200 years. The world will likely be different from what you knew. You will be excited but also, maybe, a bit scared. Wouldn’t you want to have your fluffy best friend there, with you, to face that challenge together? Several people would, since there are at the moment about 250 pet cryopreserved around the world.
How does it work? First of all, since your pet can’t be insured, you will have to pay all at once. The price depends on the size of the pet (calculated in volume). Obviously, a chihuahua would require way less space and liquid nitrogen than a mastiff. Or than a horse — which would probably require a customized dewar. The rest of the procedure is not that different from the one performed on human beings.
Can you cryopreserve any kind of pet? Well, probably yes. KrioRus standby teams, for example, cryopreserved 47 animals: 10 dogs, 24 representatives of felines, 4 birds, 1 chinchilla, 2 rabbits and 6 hamsters.
The long term cryogenics storage dewars is basically a big thermos
The special “time-travel” machine that will allow cryopreserved patients to see the future is something close to a big and high quality thermos. It’s called cryogenic storage dewar and it’s the same container used to store cells, tissues and embrions — just reasonably bigger.
Think about it. Cryopreserved patients are stored at a very low temperature, -196 °C, through the use of liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen exists in nature as a gas and it’s turned into liquid with the use of a liquid nitrogen generator. When in contact with the atmosphere, which is usually way warmer than -196 °C, the liquid nitrogen converts back to gas and disperses into the air. The best way to minimise this dispersion is to use a vacuum insulated technology — the same one used for a thermos.
Cryopreserved patients are therefore placed in a cryogenic storage dewar filled with liquid nitrogen. This container has an internal and an external layer. In between, a vacuum space that, emptied from air, doesn’t influence the temperature of the liquid inside the container.
Finally, some of the nitrogen liquid still turns into gas and disperses from a valve close to the lid. For this reason, the employees of a biostasis facility have to periodically refill the dewars. And this is done manually. No electricity is needed.
Cryopreserving a person alive would be homicide
Many people think that it would make more sense to be cryopreserved alive, to be then woken up again in the future. Like it happens in sci-fi movies or Futurama. Yet, medical technology still has to find a way to revive complex organisms. This means that, if biostasis providers would cryopreserve patients alive… they would kill them, without having a way to revive them yet. Therefore this would be considered murder!
The problem here is that the perception of cryonics, probably because of pop culture, is wrong. Biostasis providers don’t offer space or time travel — at least not yet. Cryopreservation is, instead, an ultimate life-saving technology. It’s about treating illnesses that can’t be treated today but could be treated in the future. Imagine that in 50 years we finally find a cure for cancer. People who are dying today could be saved in the future. By cryopreserving them, we pause them until future medical technology can cure them. Because of this, it makes sense to cryopreserve patients after they legally die — apart from being the only legal option. Yet, once the heart stops beating, the cells start decaying. So it is very important to start the procedure as soon as possible after the patient’s legal death. The earlier the procedure starts, the lower the cellular degradation.
In 2019 Netflix released a documentary about the youngest cryopreserved patient ever
If you want to know more about choosing biostasis as a life-saving technology, you should watch “Hope Frozen’’ by Netflix. This Thai documentary follows a couple who decide to cryopreserved their 3-years.old daughter after her legal death. To avoid the spoiler, we won’t say more. Just be sure you have tissues close by when you watch it!
Interest in cryonics has been rising in the last few years. The latest technological advancements have shown how things we believed were impossible can actually be achieved. Revival from cryopreservation doesn’t seem that far anymore. And people are getting more and more curious.
All biostasis providers expect a steady growth of the customer base in the next decades. Yet, as more and more people make this decision, the spots available will become limited. Imagine for example that tomorrow a billion people decided to sign up with one of the biostasis providers. There is a chance that some of these providers may need to temporarily suspend the sign ups!
Here is why:
- First of all, all biostasis facilities have a limited space. Obviously, this space can be expanded but it takes time to build new facilities.
- Additionally, there is a limited number of standby teams. If, again, a billion people would subscribe tomorrow, biostasis providers would need to train and equip an enormous amount of people. If there weren’t enough standby teams, providers wouldn’t be able to guarantee a fast response and a high quality cryopreservation. Having teams ready is a very important part of the process.
- Finally, it wouldn’t be that easy to buy or produce rapidly enough the amount of liquid nitrogen needed for a billion people.