Cryonics, aka biostasis, has attracted a lot of attention since the theory was first proposed by Robert Ettinger in his book The Prospects of Immortality in 1962. Ever since, the ideas behind human cryopreservation have been hijacked by popular media making the mainstream perception of the process different to what it actually is. Below are some of the misconceptions that people hold about cryonics. We’ll go through them one by one, and shine light on why these depictions are often in the dark.
No one has been successfully revived after cryopreservation with today’s technology, but it would be wrong to say that cryonics CAN’T work. Scientists in the field are well aware that there are significant problems that need to be solved before revival is possible. However, there is no biological reason that claims revival is impossible. Will we achieve this in the future? We don’t know, but those who claim to know for certain that it won’t work run the risk of making the same mistake as some famous scientists in the past did.
“To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon…. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.” - Dr. Lee De Forest, 1957
“There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the Moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the Earth’s gravity.” - Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, astronomer at the University of Chicago, 1932.
It didn’t take long for them to be proven wrong when, in 1969, the famous moon landing happened.
Most other types of medical intervention are judged on their success rate of aiding injury or illness. However, the same measurements can not be applied to cryopreservation as the potential rate of success won’t be clear for many years.
The success of cryonics depends on unknown advancements in science that will take a long time to come to fruition. Yet, as Ralph Merke says: “there are no published articles in the scientific literature that provide even one technical reason for believing that cryonics won’t work”. Until revival is scientifically proven to be impossible, cryopreservation will remain a plausible form of life extension.
To add to our case, there are current medical practices that suggest that revival will be possible in the future. One issue that cryonics faces is the fact that human bodies are large, complex, and made up of many different types of tissue and cells. This makes thawing without significant damage difficult. Yet, scientists have already worked out that magnetic nanoparticles can improve the thawing of cryopreserved biomaterials and do so uniformly. Therefore, as nanotechnology advances, this increases the chance of overcoming current problems in cryopreservation.
Common misconceptions about the nature of cryonics can hurt the industry’s credibility, and in doing so, limit the chances to push the field forward. This is why we want to address these issues in this article.
Pop culture references incorrectly suggest that the cryopreservation process directly involves freezing people. However, this is not the case. Instead, patients are “vitrified” for long term storage, placed in a glass-like state as opposed to deep-freeze. The reason that vitrification is used instead of freezing is to prevent ice crystal formation, which damages the cell structure, and would result in poor-quality cryopreservation. Vitrification minimizes the damage caused to tissue and cells, meaning that future technology does not need to be quite as advanced in order to revive patients.
After initial cooling of the patient, vitrification is achieved by using a process whereby water particles in cells are replaced with a type of medical-grade antifreeze, cryoprotectant agents (CPAs), that prevents ice crystals from forming. Once cryoprotectants are introduced, the core body temperature of the patient can be further decreased to -130°C, suitable for vitrification. At such sub-zero temperatures, molecular activity comes to a standstill, cellular decay is paused, and the structural integrity of the body is preserved. Once vitrified, patients are further cooled down to -196°C so that they can be stored in liquid nitrogen inside a cryogenic storage dewar for long-term care.
Vitrification has already been successful in the cryopreservation of certain organs. Studies have shown that blood vessels were reversibly vitrified, and a cryopreserved kidney was recovered and successfully transplanted. Therefore, there is hope that as medical technology advances further, whole body revival from biostasis will be possible.
Fraud is understood as deceiving someone for personal financial gain. People who sign up to be cryopreserved are consenting and made fully aware of what they are signing up for. Since no one has been successfully revived yet, and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is low, there is a tendency for those outside of the industry to deem cryonics as fraud. Yet, as we already mentioned earlier there is no evidence to suggest that this procedure can’t work. This is not a financially lucrative industry. Those involved in this sector genuinely believe in the potential of human cryopreservation. This can be seen in the structure of biostasis organizations such as the European Biostasis Foundation (EBF) as they are specifically designed for the benefit of members.
Tomorrow Bio works with two companion organizations: the Tomorrow Patient Foundation (TPF, a "Patient Care Trust") and EBF. Together, we work to provide a complete cryonics service. TPF is a non-profit private benefit organization created for the long-term stability and security of patients while EBF is a non-profit foundation dedicated to furthering biostasis science. The structure and divided responsibilities of these entities was intentionally created for the interest (in addition to stability and quality) of cryopreserved patients, not for any financial gain.
In today's society there’s a tendency to deem that which is “normal” as something natural or good. However, as medical advancements continue to impact our lives, our perception of what is normal will change. This means that considering something as either natural or unnatural is merely subjective and arbitrarily applied to a situation.
Some medical procedures of the past were called unnatural, yet they have been some of the most revolutionary. Take some of the initial societal apprehension towards organ transplantation. Now, it is a crucial medical intervention. New and groundbreaking advancements can often seem shocking, but in the long run, offer the best hope for meaningful change. By what metric is it considered normal to cremate a body while cryopreserving someone for future medical intervention is deemed unnatural? Especially when you consider that biostasis too can be found in nature.
Although the overall cost of being cryopreserved can be expensive, part of Tomorrow Bio’s long-term goal is to make cryonics more affordable to everyone. We want to give people the choice to decide how long they want to live.
Tomorrow Bio achieves this by offering different funding options such as term life insurance plans. These insurance policies break down the overall cost into manageable monthly payments, and cover the cost of the cryopreservation itself, long-term storage, research and development, and more. Of course, term life insurance contracts have an end date, so using them as the primary funding source still requires long-term planning. However, it does enable young people to sign up even if they don’t have the necessary personal funds to finance this service.
Many people are deterred from signing up for cryopreservation because they don’t see the point in being brought back when they’re old. However, the overall aim of cryonics is to achieve longevity. While we definitely want to save people that have died tragically young due to disease or by accident, we also want to be able to revive people who have died from old age when anti-aging technology is available. As Steve Bridge of Alcor states:
“Aging is not magical; it involves misarrangement of molecules, just like everything else that can go wrong with us. If we can repair cancer and heart disease in the cells of these frozen patients, we can surely learn to make all their cells healthy again. And healthy equals young, for all practical purposes.”
Therefore upon revival, someone would be able to enjoy life feeling much younger and healthier than when they had died from old age.
We hope that we have been able to clear up any misconceptions. If there is anything else you are unsure about or want to clarify, then feel free to join our Discord server and discuss it with us or our community. Tomorrow aims to educate and inform people about cryopreservation. Either through educational videos on our Youtube channel, daily articles in our online-editorial Tomorrow Insight or our newly published ebooks, for which you can sign up below. Thank you for reading and see you tomorrow!