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Increasing human „shelf life“ by cryogenic freezing

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jnikola Sep 23, 2020
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If science doesn´t find a way how to prolong the human lifespan in our limited time, does it make sense to be frozen and brought back to life when there is a cure/longevity pill? Can the complex organism survive being frozen for ages and what could be the consequences? Even if you survive and come back to life, would you be the same person?


Science and technology are on an unstoppable rise in the last few decades. The gene editing, AI technology and the Internet are delivering solutions and inventions which seemed impossible some years ago. But are we fast enough to win the race with aging, or the longevity is reserved just for the future generations? If we still don´t know the answer to that question, it´s ok because there is a solution – cryogenic freezing.

KrioRus (RUS), Alcor Life Extensions Foundation (USA) and Cryonics Institute (USA) are the institutions where people (usually very rich, because „the treatment“ costs 50,000$ and more) who recently died are being received and taken care of as a „metabolically challenged“ patients. Their blood is being drained out and replaced by cryoprotective agents, after which the bodies slowly freeze in liquid nitrogen to -196 degrees Celsius and wait for their reviving opportunity. If your pocket isn´t deep enough, but you still want to live forever, you can freeze only your head or a brain, which will later be „re-sleeved“ (Altered Carbon, Netflix series).

The idea of cryogenic freezing was seeded in the middle of the 20th century and spread by The Prospects of Immortality from Robert Ettinger, where he proposes freezing and reviving in the future.


That it could work, can be told by many examples.
  • From the usual hibernation of the animals in cold seasons to Siberian salamanders reviving few years of permafrost, surviving the extremely cold temperatures is not a strange phenomenon.
  • More familiar examples are embryos and sperm freezing procedures, which prove that defrosting can be successful in less complex systems of maybe a hundred cells. The longest time after which the frozen embryo resulted in a live birth was 14 years!
  • The same was successfully done with a rabbit kidney, which functioned well after being frozen, defrosted, and transplanted back to an animal.
  • In 2015, microscopic worms survived being frozen and retained memory.
  • In 2016, an MIT graduate successfully froze and defrosted a functional white rabbit brain for the first time.
  • The same year, a 26-year-old college student was revived after being drunk and frozen in the snow, having no pulse, heartbeat, or brain activity.
All the above mentioned suggest that, following the incredible advancement of technology, the dream of living forever could not be far away.


On the other hand, the problems lie in the process of freezing itself.
  • The first one is that it should be done instantly after death. Every minute without oxygen and nutrients is a bunch of new dead cells and brain damage.
  • The second one is the toxicity of a cryoprotectant, that should be completely washed away before “rising from the dead”.
  • The third one is an organism's tolerance to a change. If exposure to sun hearts our skin, what damage would arise from a century on -196 degrees Celsius or an uneven cooling-warming of the body?!
  • Looked from the other perspective, how is it morally and legally different from euthanasia?
  • Also, what happens with the person´s legal profile when it gets frozen? Are you considered dead or “at sleep”?

What is Your opinion?
What is the biggest challenge to cryogenic freezing and defrosting?
Is it the same as dying? Should it legally be considered the same as a burial?
If a defrosted man comes to life, would that mean that the soul also froze along with the body?
Would it mean the soul is made of physical constituents?








Creative contributions

Cryogenic freezing with amniotic fluid

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Sep 24, 2020
The rational mentioned in the session is highly realistic and may be sought after in the near future. Preservation of the human body until lifespan-enhancing technology becomes available will surely be done for a few who have the resources, even though such preservation poses several issues including the legal and the philosophical ones. However, the technology itself, should not be limiting. As mentioned in the session, the cold storage has a number of demerits. What do you think are the problems involved in using the amniotic fluid to preserve human bodies? The proof-of-concept of the use of the amniotic fluid to preserve human bodies comes from the maintenance and also growth of the fetus in the uterus for nine months. Several studies have used this concept to store organs and have shown success. [1] Some of these studies also indicate that the individual cells in the organs stored in the amniotic fluid showed better survival compared to the other preservation techniques like the University of Wisconsin solution and the custodial histidine-tryptophan-ketoglutarate solution. This study presented the effects of preserving the skin at 4° C. [2] Preserving the body in the amniotic fluid at the room temperature will not serve the purpose since the fluid will be "active" and may deteriorate the body. Researchers have also tried freezing the amniotic fluid and have found no difference in the functionality of the freeze-thawed amniotic fluid when compared to that refrigerated at 2° C to 8°C. Therefore, the amniotic fluid might help in mitigating the negative effects of freezing. [3] What do you think are the problems associated with using the amniotic fluid? 1. Bioavailability can be an issue. This can be solved by producing synthetic amniotic fluid (although it will need to be tested). References: 1. Büyük B, Demirci T, Adalı Y, Eroğlu HA. A new organ preservation solution for static cold storage of the liver. Amniotic fluid. Acta Cir Bras [Internet]. 2019;34(4). Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0102-86502019000400200&tlng=en 2. Buseman J, Rinker AB, Rinker B. Amniotic Fluid for Ex Vivo Skin Preservation. Ann Plast Surg [Internet]. 2013 Dec;71(6):643–5. Available from: http://journals.lww.com/00000637-201312000-00005 3. Lafler D, Mendoza A, Cousins L, Poeltler D. Refrigerated and Frozen Amniotic Fluid for Fetal Lung Maturity Testing and Lamellar Body Density Counts. Lab Med [Internet]. 1996 Nov 1;27(11):770–4. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/labmed/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/labmed/27.11.770
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jnikola4 years ago
I must admit it is a very interesting thought. From the papers you referenced, I can see that the preservation of the organs in it could function well on temperatures above zero. My doubts appear when you put it in a context of freezing the human body many degres below zero (in order to minimize the metabolism activity). Here, by using the amniotic fluid, we could have the same problem as with the blood. It is constituted by 98-99% of water and therefore, forms ice crystals when freezing thus damaging the cells. The solution could be the cryoprotective fluid with nutritive value, based on the amniotic fluid composition or something like that.
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Vitrification, and using the nanotechnological solution for minimum damage during revival/thawing back

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Mar 03, 2021
Vitrification is the process of rapid cooling of the cells/tissues/organs into non-crystalline amorphous state so that the crystal formation observed in conventional stepwise freezing is bypassed. This prevents the wide-scale damage of the tissues and cells caused due to rupturing as a result of mechanical pressure to the cell skeleton. Vitrification has long been deemed a superior technique as compared to convective freezing. However, there is another problem. When reviving the vitrified tissue samples by rewarming the tissue samples, there again is the problem of crystal formation . This becomes more problematic for larger samples, and if we are to ever vitrify the whole body, such crystal formation and associated damage to the cells would pose a great challenge. A group of research scientists at the University of Minnesota in 2017 were able to find a potential solution to this problem observed during the revival of vitrified tissue samples . This was made possible by the use of nanotechnology. In the study published in Science- translational medicine, the group used silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles (msIONP) dispersed across the cryoprotectant solution (VS55) . When these nanoparticles were activated by induction using noninvasive electromagnetic (Radio Frequency) waves, they acted as tiny heaters around the tissue- achieving a sustained and uniform rate of heating around 100 to 200 degrees Celsius per minute. The viability tests post-revival showed that none of the tissues displayed any harm as compared to the control samples rewarmed conventionally. The group successfully demonstrated that diverse tissues like porcine carotid arteries, porcine heart valves and femoral arteries in up to 80-ml systems can be brought back into their metabolically active state using this seemingly breakthrough approach.

This findings are indicative of a new and emerging application of how nanoparticles could be used in the field of cryobiology. Hopefully in the future when advances are made in these frontier, such nanowarming technique may make it possible to revive the functional properties of the whole organisms and make revival post vitrification a reality.

[1]Fahy GM, Saur J, Williams RJ. Physical problems with the vitrification of large biological systems. Cryobiology. 1990 Oct;27(5):492-510. doi: 10.1016/0011-2240(90)90038-6. PMID: 2249453.

[2]Manuchehrabadi, N., Gao, Z., Zhang, J., Ring, H. L., Shao, Q., Liu, F., McDermott, M., Fok, A., Rabin, Y., Brockbank, K. G. M., Garwood, M., Haynes, C. L., & Bischof, J. C. (2017). Improved tissue cryopreservation using inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles. Science Translational Medicine, 9(379), eaah4586. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aah4586

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jnikola3 years ago
Thank You Subash Chapagain for this amazing finding! It is indeed a breakthrough!
The rate of temperature increase is just insane (>120ºC/min).

As I understood, the remaining problems are:
1) freezing and re-heating biological samples bigger than 50(80) ml
2) cytotoxicity; although it was performed by AlamarBlue assay (which is an in vitro survival assay that assesses the activity of mitochondrial reductases) and tested on mice, the viability of a bigger biological system like a human body, with approximately 5000 ml / 80 ml = 62.5 times higher concentration could have serious problems with high concentrations of msIONP in VS55
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Cryonics vs suspended animation

Povilas S
Povilas S Sep 24, 2020
The main problem with cryonics is that people are already dead when their bodies are preserved. So it would take a miracle of bringing back from the dead for it to work. It's much more likely to work if a person would be voluntarily put to some form of suspended animation when having inevitable death ahead of them. Then it would only take reversing the process and curing the condition which was back then incurable. It might be a sort of induced hibernation or coma-like state, even cryogenic freezing itself would have a much better chance if it was performed on a living system. However, this would still take somehow bypassing cell damage done by extreme cold. Probably a non-toxic cryoprotectant as proposed in the above contribution is a good idea. Induced hibernation or other types of suspended animation might be necessary if we wanted to make interstellar travel possible for humans. If a reliable technique for long-term human suspended animation would be developed, this would allow a kind of time travel into the future even for healthy individuals. An important ethical and philosophical question that arises, in this case, is what would happen to an individual's state of mind or soul during this type of body condition. Wouldn't one feel like in a limbo? Would it seem like a dream state from which there is no waking up/escape? This problem is explored in the movie "Vanilla Sky" and its original Spanish version "Abre los ojos". If one believes in consciousness, soul, or any other form of deeper essence of being rather than physical, continuing after death, then death is a doorway for this deeper essence to escape and be free or move on to other stages of its evolution. In this perspective, suspended bodily activities, especially before the time of death, might trap the soul inside it, which might not be a very pleasant subjective experience.
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jnikola4 years ago
I definitely agree with you. The freezing institutions are considered "cemeteries" and thus, it means the fatal damage to an organism has already been done. It would be great if you could freeze a man alive, but that would be a murder or euthanasia, right? Concerning the ethical problem you stated, yes, this could be a tricky one. Even if we consider -196 degrees Celsius to be enough to almost completely stop the metabolic activity of the cells, we don´t know what happens with our soul. The mind would probably be deactivated too because it´s based on physiological neuron signals, but soul...
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Povilas S
Povilas S4 years ago
I like the perspective that brain is a kind of receiver system for consciousness, like a radio to the radio waves. Consciousness in this perspective is like radio waves - existing independently from radio, but manifesting themselves through it.
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