So, you’ve signed up for cryopreservation. Great! But you might be wondering if there’s anything else that you need to do afterwards. Maybe there are certain behaviors you can adopt or habits you can avoid throughout your life to improve your body’s response to cryopreservation? Actually, some things may help. Let’s first go over how cryopreservation works, and what it does to the human body.
The following explanation is based on a standard cryopreservation case. In reality, some procedures could vary depending on the circumstances of a case.
The cryopreservation procedure starts after a patient is declared legally dead. Once this takes place, the standby team (SST) can begin to stabilize the patient. The aim is to cool the body temperature down both externally and internally to reduce ischemic damage, especially to the brain. Reducing ischemia means keeping cells viable and slowing degradation processes as much as possible. The stabilization process involves:
At this point, the cryopreservation procedure requires the aid of surgery. In the case of whole-body cryopreservation, which is what Tomorrow Bio offers, the SST team needs to conduct a median sternotomy to access the heart and chest cavity. Once this is achieved, the aorta and vena cava are cannulated and the team attaches the perfusion system.
Cryoprotective agents (CPAs) are perfused into the body to lower the core temperature and substitute the blood. Lowering the body temperature slows the metabolism, meaning cellular deterioration is mostly halted. Removing blood and water, on the other hand, prevents the formation of ice crystals at sub-zero temperatures. If this step were not taken, freezing would result in tissue damage.
At the same time, CPS circulates both blood and the medicine administered to prevent ischemic injury. Blood needs to be substituted with CPAs so that as much water as possible is removed from the body when it reaches sub-zero temperatures. Freezing and subsequent ice crystals formation would damage cellular structure, so it is necessary to avoid it during cryopreservation. CPAs, which are a medical grade anti-freeze, provide protection for cells against ice formation. They are administered slowly in low concentrations into the body, and are increased gradually over time. This protects the body as the temperature continues to drop till it passes through the glass-transition temperature at around -120°C. At this temperature, a patient is vitrified, meaning that all biological activities are effectively paused.
Once a patient is completely perfused with the highest concentration, the SST team can transport them to a long-term storage facility.
Now that we know more about the cryopreservation process, it’s important to understand what factors might influence this procedure. The two biggest factors are arteriosclerosis, and blood clotting.
Arteriosclerosis is when the blood vessels arteries become stiff and thick. This restricts blood flow to other organs within the body. As a result, it can cause blood clots to form and completely cut off circulation. Or, if a blood clot breaks away, this can lead to a heart attack or stroke. By restricting or preventing blood flow in the body, cells will become oxygen deprived. The longer a cell is without oxygen, the sooner they begin to starve. Eventually, they will undergo cell death through apoptosis.
In cryonics, the aim of the standby team is to reduce cellular death as much and as quickly as possible, especially within the brain. In addition, conditions like arteriosclerosis and thrombosis can reduce the effectiveness of CPA perfusion process. This means that some parts of the body may not be fully protected with CPAs, which could result in damage to the body during the procedure.
With all that said, what can be done while you are alive to ensure that your body responds favorably to this procedure? Simply put, the life you live will have an impact on your quality of cryopreservation. Does this mean if you live an unhealthy lifestyle you won’t be cryopreserved? No, of course not. However, it might affect the quality of your cryopreservation, as well as decrease your longevity.
A sedentary lifestyle and poor diet can increase the risk of heart disease, as well as increase the chance of developing atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque within the arteries. An active life and nutritious diet can counteract this. In addition, increased activity and healthy eating impacts your metabolic rate, or your body’s ability to function properly (digest food, repair cells, regulate body temperature, etc.).
If you work at a desk job, this may be a challenge. However, even taking a few minutes every hour to walk around the office (or home) can help reduce the risk. Regular exercise improves blood flow throughout the body, and has extra benefits such as easing symptoms for depression and anxiety, and reducing the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimers. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise a week. Diets that are rich in plant-based foods, good fats such as olive oil and nuts, whole grains and lean protein can also help contribute to a balanced way of living. As a result of a proper diet and exercise, it can also increase your own longevity.
A good lifestyle will impact your longevity, and may impact the quality of your cryopreservation. The revival process from biostasis still has a long way to go, but we may see new developments over the next decades.
The longer you are alive, the more medical technologies will advance, both regarding revival, but also improving the quality of cryopreservation. However, a detrimental way of living can decrease your longevity, meaning you could pass on before significant technological innovations are created that could improve your cryopreservation. The lower quality the cryopreservation, the longer it may take for medical professionals and scientists to revive you from biostasis.
This means that you could wake up sooner in the future. Simply put, if you want a high quality cryopreservation, a balanced way of living will help you achieve this.
Regardless of your way of life, if you’ve signed up for cryonics you will be cryopreserved. However, the choices you make now could impact how long you will be in biostasis compared to others. A healthy way of living can mean that you may wake up in the future earlier than others. So, dear reader, how are you improving your lifestyle for a high quality cryopreservation?
See you tomorrow!