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So you’ve heard about cryopreservation. And you now understand how Biostasis works (sometimes also called “cryonics”) generally speaking. But even with this information it’s likely you’ve still got questions about what actually happens when a person legally dies. Some of these questions might be: how does a biostasis provider get their body to the facility where they will be stored? Or how does a company located hours away service their customers?
At the Biostasis 2020 conference international cryo medicine specialist Eric Vogt gave a talk about the challenges biostasis providers face when it comes to transporting a patient’s body to the proper cryopreservation facility. He also described the ways current cryopreservation and biostasis companies must act in order to ensure that their clients bodies receive the best possible cryopreservation treatment.
In his talk, Eric would outline what must be done before bringing a person’s body to a cryopreservation facility. Biostasis specialists call this method SST. SST stands for Standby, Stabilization, and Transportation.
Ideally, a standby team is dispatched when a patient is in critical condition – this happens long before their heart stops. Now, their Biostasis provider waits until that person is legally declared dead by a medical professional (this is required). After the person has officially legally died, the biostasis team would begin the next stage of stabilization. The team would transport the patient’s body to a facility that has the means of starting the vitrification process.
Stabilization of the patient contains few steps that are started simultaneously, The patient will then be cooled with wet ice. Specialized medication is given to the patient and blood flow is re-established in the body. Now a surgeon and perfusionist start the perfusion of the cryoprotective agent.
Once this has been completed by the biostasis team, the body is finally ready to be transported by plane, car, train etc. to the proper facility on dry ice. At this point the biostasis provider would store the patient until technology has advanced enough to cure the disease that lead to the patient’s death in the first place and bring them back from being cryogenically preserved.
Challenges for Biostasis Teams
This SST method works under best case scenario circumstances, but certain challenges arise as “best cases” rarely happen. Additionally, while SST works, it does not ensure the best possible cryopreservation treatment is done. Eric explains some of the challenges biostasis teams must address in order to give their patients the needed treatment.
In order for cryopreservation to work, the process must start as soon as possible after circulatory arrest (but only once legal death has been pronounced). This ensures that medical professionals can minimize damage and decay to a person’s body. With SST people need to be conservative when it comes to planning and execution. A team would have to be literally by the bedside of the patient right before legal death in an ideal situation ready to bring them to a facility where the cryoprotectant can be introduced.
Time constraint for Cryopreservation
Time constraint presents several issues. What if there is an accident and you are suddenly and unexpectedly declared dead? In this case it could take time for your loved ones or your medical provider to contact your biostasis company. In addition, it could also take quite some time before the biostasis team could reach you. Even if the patient is in critical condition and the biostasis provider is notified ahead of time, the team might not be able to be at their bedside for the declaration of legal death.
With that being said, a biostasis provider must also move the patient from the place of legal death to a place where the vitrification process can start. Depending on when and where the doctor declares the patient’s death, there are several options that can make transportation more difficult.
After the successful introduction of the cryoprotectant, a biostasis provider must then bring the patient to the permanent storage facility. In the best case, the team could deliver a patient via a domestic charter flight. This method is quick but quite expensive. It is more likely a patient will be delivered by a commercial flight or even a land vehicle. And if the patient happens to be internationally located the challenge to reach them in time and bring them to the needed facility becomes even more difficult.
If there were more biostasis and cryopreservation facilities around the world, these time and distance challenges wouldn’t be as big of a deal. There could always be a team within less than a few hours traveling distance ready to prepare the patient’s body. Until the emergence of other companies and facilities, however, those looking to be cryogenically preserved will need another solution.
In his talk, Eric highlights the current solution being used to compensate for these time and distance challenges. Professionals call this Field Cryoprotection (FCP). This means that the stabilization of the patient will be started as close to their time of legal death as possible. The cryoprotectant agent will be introduced in the “field”.
A specialized team completes the introduction of the cryoprotectant and also the cooling. The team is then able to move the patient on dry ice at a temperature of -79°C and transport them to the final facility where the vitrification process can be completed. (Vitrification is not complete until a cryoprotectant is introduced AND the body is cooled down further, ultimately reaching a temperature of -196°C.)
FCP reduces the time gap between legal death and the start of the cryoprotection process. By being able to start the stabilization process sooner, the quality of vitrification of a patient’s body will be better than when a team must deliver a patient to a separate facility to begin this process. Additionally, when this is completed a patient can be maintained for hours to days before being placed in the permanent cryopreservation facility.
How Tomorrow Biostasis Addresses These Challenges
The goal of a successful biostasis provider should be to enhance the situation for cryopreservation. This means that medical teams must be able to reach patients quickly AND start the cryopreservation process as soon as possible. Tomorrow Biostasis is a prime example of a company solving the issues associated with the process of cryopreservation.
In order to easily dispatch, Tomorrow limits its services to Europe and makes use of ambulances and specialized medical teams that are both fully equipped for stabilizing a patient. All this means that:
A) Tomorrow can quickly reach a patient in its coverage region when legal death is pronounced
B) Tomorrow’s regularly trained medical team can almost immediately begin introduction of the cryoprotectant in Tomorrow’s fully equipped ambulance (FCP)
C) The Tomorrow team can easily deliver a patient to the final cryopreservation facility
Additionally, in the case a patient happens to be located outside of the core coverage region e.g. while travelling, Tomorrow will send a mobile team to recover the patient. Check here how our pricing work.
Despite the several hurdles that cryopreservation brings, companies like Tomorrow Biostasis are prepared to address these challenges. By reducing the time between processes, Tomorrow Biostasis is making sure that their patients go through the highest quality process of vitrification available.
Best Practices for Cryopreservation Processes
In an ideal world, cryopreservation specialists and facilities would be located closely in proximity to any person looking to have their body put into cryogenic sleep. Until then, scientists and medical professionals are figuring out ways to best reach patients. They are also finding better ways to secure their patient’s bodies for the biostasis process.
While traditional methods work, the time and distance parameters pose significant challenges. With use of methods such as FCP, a biostasis team can start the process practically at a patient’s bedside. Companies such as Tomorrow Biostasis are overcoming these difficulties and finding solutions to provide a better way to preserve a patient’s body and give them the best biostasis care possible.