Cryonics Versus Cryogenics
We have discussed Cenegenics, but what about cryonics and cryogenics? Many times the word cryogenics is mistakenly searched when readers want to obtain information on the life extension method of cryonics. Cryonics is a method of vitrification of bodies that have died of an incurable disease day in hopes that a cure or treatment will be available in the future at which time the body can be resuscitated. Through cryonics a body can be preserved for decades and even centuries until future medical technology is available to restore a person back to health. Cryogenics on the other hand is a branch of physics that studies the production and effects of very low temperature.
Vitrification: the Method Behind Cryonics
Okay, so what is vitrification? Vitrification is a process of cooling the body without freezing the cells or tissues. Freezing the cells would actually damage the cells and would be self-defeating to the goal of cryonics. To cool the body without freezing requires removing the blood from the body and infusing it with high concentration of cryoprotectants – chemicals (16 chemicals are used) that permit the body to be cooled without formation of ice crystals. Vitrification is the process of cooling bodies to -120°C without ice formation.
Alcor: the Leader in Cryonics
Alcor is the leading company that offers cryonics to consumers. Its website is very informative on the science behind cryonics and the methods of preserving a body through vitrification. According to Alcor 135 individuals have had their bodies cryonically “frozen” or preserved with over 1300 total members who have signed to have their bodies cryonically preserved.
Myths related to cryonics can be found on the website. An important point is that the vitrification process does not take place until a person is declared legally dead. But legal death does not necessarily mean biological death. Tissues and organs remain viable for a period of time after the heart stops beating. This is why organs can be transplanted from deceased donors to those in need of an organ. Brain death occurs 4-6 minutes after the heart stops, though new warm cardiac arrest techniques can extend that time to 10 minutes. Cryonics is likely to be more viable if the vitrification process can begin immediately once a person is declared legally dead – preferably within a minute or two. Therefore, a standby team is ready to initiate cryonics when a patient (an Alcor member) is in failing health.
History of Cryonics
Though the first human was cryonically preserved in 1967 no one has been yet revived. In fact, the vitrification process is not yet reversible with today’s technology. Cryopreservation is already being used in other areas of medicine, though and with success. Human embryos are cryopreserved and then revived. Organs for transplantation can by cryopreserved and revived. And, sperm banks use cryopreservation techniques as well.
Though it is commonly reported that Walt Disney had his body cryopreserved, he died in 1966 months before the first human was cryopreserved.
Cost of Cryonics
Believe it or not the cost of cryonics is within the reach of most people as it can be funded through life insurance policies. Alcor allows for five methods of funding cryopreservation. Currently it costs $200,000 to cryopreserve the entire body and $80,000 for cryopreservation of the brain.