More than 300 people have been cryogenised hoping to resurrect in the future, but no one has shown that this is of any use.
Almost all of us have heard of cryopreservation: storing our bodies on ice at very low temperatures, hoping to be revived for a better future. Currently, it is estimated that only about 350 people have been cryogenized worldwide.
However, the (few) institutes and entities that offer this type of service continue to sell the hope of a second chance, a cure and a better life. What has happened, to date, of these "cryogenized patients"? Will they ever be brought back to life? The answer, I'm afraid, will not be to anyone's taste.
Cryonic and what cryonic, that's the question
There are around seven organizations in the world dedicated to cryopreservation. Five of them are from the United States, while there is one in Russia and one in Portugal. The oldest and most prestigious is the Cryonics Institute, created by the "father of cryogenics", Robert Ettinger. This researcher was the first to publish on the subject, as well as one of the biggest drivers of technology.
In fact, he himself, the body of his mother, his wife and his second wife remain, they say, waiting for a better time. For Ettinger cryogenic preservation was a way of betting on a second chance. Second chance of what? To live better, to cure a terminal illness or to be immortal. Cryogenization is much more common today than we think.
These are Kryorus cryogenic tanks
For example, cryopreservation of gametes, sperm or eggs is quite daily to lengthen motherhood. Related to fertility is cryopreservation of fertilized embryos, which are the precursor of a human body. A tissue can also be cryogenised to avoid deterioration as much as possible. And, finally, we come to the cryogenization that interests us: that of the human body. Or the brain.
Indeed, another option is the cryopreservation of our brain mass, or the whole head, in order to be able to transplant it to a new and healthy body in the future. The controversial doctor Sergio Canavero, famous for claiming that he has achieved the first head transplant, also asserts that in just a few years these cryopreserved brains will be able to "come back" to life. Another option would be to turn these brains into true "artificial intelligences," in the least strict sense of the word.
Currently, there are an estimated 350 cases of cryogenized patients, regardless of whether they are whole bodies or brains and 200 pets. Yes, pets are also cryogenized. At the Cryogenics Institute they claim to have 173 of them (the last one on September 14). Alcor, another of the greats, has about 162. Cryogenizing a body is completely legal in almost everyone, since it does not imply biasing life. The cost is usually around $ 30,000, more or less, although it depends on the "service" you want to hire.
Can a body be revived?
The quick answer is no. Not resounding. In 1962, Ettinger published "The Prospect of Immortality", the first serious defense of cryogenization as a tool to take advantage of the medicine of the future. Since then we have advanced a lot in the cryopreservation technique. I refer to the tests in reproductive medicine: we can vitrify eggs, sperm and embryos. And a human body?
The problem remains that freezing any living material is often irreparable damage. Indeed, we have managed to reduce it to surprising points, especially if we are talking about individual cells. But when we treat a tissue, let alone a full body, the problem becomes unsustainable.
The body is put in a container with liquid nitrogen, to wait for better times
To reduce damage, when the body can be cryogenized shortly after death, it is immediately put into the cold and heparin (to reduce clotting), sodium citrate, and an antacid are administered. Cardiac massage is performed and prepared for removal. Once in the offices, it is perfused with blood substances, to "ensure" fluidity and avoid other problems, whenever possible. Then the procedure is simple: it is placed in an automatic freezer that allows immediate freezing to avoid cell rupture. Then the body is put in a container with liquid nitrogen, to wait for better times.
It goes without saying that the procedure, no matter how much you want to dress as a scientist, has a lot of superstition. Giving heparin and other substances to a dead person is a little daring.Let's do an imagination exercise and suppose we can freeze someone without causing harm. How do we know that when thawed, these substances will not cause irreversible damage? Cryoprotectants work on cells, even tissues. But in a full body?
Definitely, when we inject this type of substances we do it with the security that we use in inanimate objects. This type of substance would never be administered to a living subject without a correct medical review. Returning to the topic of freezing, another big problem is that we don't know how to thaw something without it being terribly injured. We would have to be able to repair the damage caused.
On the other hand, even if we did, we would have to be able to bring life back. Remember that we deal with dead bodies, some for hours or days. To date, we have not been able to bring anyone back to life. What makes us think that we can do it with a body frozen for years in liquid nitrogen? No. Definitely, the answer, unfortunately, is no: we cannot resuscitate one of these cryopreserved patients.
Only silence remains
A couple of years ago, the sad case of the young "JS", just 14 years old, caused quite a stir: the girl, suffering from a rare cancer, had her last wishes: to be frozen so that, in the future, she could relive and have a second chance. After a legal skirmish and a heartfelt letter, the young woman got the UK courts to support her wish. In October 2016, his body was loaded in a container with dry ice.
We assume it arrived correctly and is now stored in one of the Cryonics Institute's liquid nitrogen containers, just outside Detroit. But the truth is that the track is lost in time and space, as its status did not transcend public opinion after these latest news. Of the 173 patients, only 23 are collected on the Cryonics Institute website.
The same occurs with patients of Alcor or any of the other companies. Patient data has not always been collected and is no longer discussed a posteriori. It is not surprising either: after being put in a tank a little more you have to count. Few exceptions are those that involve a legal case, such as that of the young JS or the curious case of a man who was "caught" late and could only cryopreserve his head, despite the significant anguish that generated in his offspring what took Alcor to court.
The rest of the patients are, simply, people who have passed to a better life and who, before, decided to give their bodies to liquid nitrogen. After this there is nothing left. Rights post-mortem or to dead memory They are scarce and lead to little more than preserving a certain respect. It is not entirely clear what would happen if someone came back to life. In what state would you do it? No one knows because no one has risen, as far as we know. There are no precedents, and when someone dies their rights as a living person disappear because there is no other opinion than that of death.
Maybe, and just maybe, someday we will have to face this question from a new point of view. Then we will have to deeply review our notions of law. At a technical level we will have overcome many aspects that right now are pure speculation. And on a philosophical, social and economic level, we may have solved many of the problems that distress us today. But until then, and unfortunately, cryogenization is only followed by silence.