2007-05-25

Conference: Advances in Human Cryopreservation, May 18-20, 2007 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.

Notes Part 4 of 4

I can only vaguely reconstruct the great announcement at the end of Saturday’s banquet. I wasn’t taking notes, the announcement was very detailed, and I was beginning to suffer just a little fatigue from the day’s activities. So a caveat about everything I say about it.

An anonymous donor has funded a multimillion-dollar grant proposal by Greg Fahy to work toward successful reversible suspended animation. The 3-year project, staffed with half a dozen scientists in a new facility, will extend over 3 phases:

Phase 1 will identify an optimal method for vitrifying the body from a physical point of view in rabbits. Phase 2 will verify and extend Phase 1 results in larger mammals and possibly human cadavers donated for non-cryonics medical research. Phase 3 will work toward true suspended animation (biologically reversible whole body vitrification).

Greg made the case for whole-body work as a “pathway to medical acceptance/understanding” of cryonics and a convenient way to accelerate work on cryopreserving all individual organs.

Phase 1 itself is slated to take 3 years, and in essence seems to be an attempt to perfect vitrification itself (not its reversal). The problem so far seems to be that bodies don’t vitrify perfectly, evenly, in every nook and cranny. This will mean revisiting methods of perfusion, visualizing the results of vitrification by slices, and then focusing attention on problem areas of the body where ice or other damage occurs. The research project will also look into the consequences of “postmortem” delays, typical in cryonics cases. The research will require the construction of novel methods and equipment for slicing and imaging samples. The facility will also have its own scanning electron microscope.

As far as I know, until the last five years or so, true suspended animation was not a long-term goal even for researchers affiliated with cryonics. Even when considered as a distant possibility, it was approached in mincing steps by work on vitrifying individual organs (extending work done over three decades). This research project seems to finally vault toward the goal. In 3 years, with luck, we should have some idea of whether the overall approach using vitrification is likely feasible. At best, whole body vitrification will have been perfected (at least for rabbits!). At worst, relentless failure will force the researchers back to the drawing board.

Handouts at the conference included the beautiful, detailed reprint of the l’Arca magazine piece on the Timeship design. What once seemed an improbably fantastic edifice now seems to be still moving toward realization. Timeship is slated to hold not only thousands of human cryopreserved patients (in intermediate temperature storage), but also other biological samples of life from our era and research labs, all in a location (yet to be announced) safe from natural disasters.

Another handout was Matthew Sullivan’s article, “Diversifying Cryonics into Mainstream Corporate America”, offering various suggestions for professionalizing and medicalizing cryonics service providers by methods such as outsourcing and alignment with industry standards.

Conference: Advances in Human Cryopreservation, May 18-20, 2007 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.

Notes Part 3 of 4

Note: These are just my summaries from my notes. As a layperson with bad handwriting and poor memory, I am sure I will have introduced errors that are not to be attributed to the speakers! Blame me not them if something is wrong or doesn’t make sense…

Rudi Hoffman kicked off a new sort of panel, one focused on the financial implications of cryonics. Rudi is the most prominent life insurance agent and financial planner for cryonicists. (Most cryonics arrangements are funded by an ordinary life insurance policy.) Rudi reminded us that dead people, in US law, have no legal standing.

Those who plan to become suspension patients can make arrangements for their post-resuscitation finances by forming trusts. The problems with trusts include malfeasance of the trustees, incomplete instructions, potential conflict of interest (between the trustee and the patient, e.g., with regard to spending the money on resuscitation), investment performance, tax liability issues, disgruntled “heirs”, inadequate funding, and government interference.

Rudi’s recommendations include getting professional advice, making an informed choice of trustees, updating your plan, and overfunding into multiple accounts. To be included among the latter, Rudi proposes a “3-legged stool”: the Hoffman Prototype Dynasty Trust, the Liechtenstein Reanimation Foundation, and the Alcor Personal Reanimation Trust.

Tanya Jones explained a bit more about the Alcor Personal Reanimation Trust, which is still in formation. It is envisioned as a master trust, with each patient having a “sub-trust” overseen by a “Conservator”. The trust would release funds to a “reanimated” individual if he/she meets certain conditions, such as having the “same body” or the “same brain”. Tough luck for modified clones, 3-d reprinted bodies, or uploads! Apparently, current legal language is simply not able to provide criteria for personal identity that would apply to ‘whole body emulations’.

Ben Best added that 20 US states now allow perpetual trusts (not, unfortunately, my own Florida).

Ben briefly alluded to the problems that would arise if legal death is not declared, which presumably would be the case if reversible suspended animation were ever widely recognized as feasible. One can only imagine the hurricane of legal and institutional (health care) changes that await us when that time comes.

The venerable Saul Kent opened with the best one-liner of the conference, summing up the progress on all his many life extension projects: “Everything is subject to delays, except for aging.”

Saul introduced a new initiative to work on the legal rights of cryopreserved patients, in particular: (1) the right to be maintained in cryopreservation; (2) the right to be revived; and (3) the right to retain all of his/her assets sufficient to accomplish (1) and (2). He recognized the unfortunate fact that this will be a long, difficult struggle. He also stated that he would like to see work toward new laws relating to cryopreservation itself – that would allow those pronounced terminally ill to be cryopreserved immediately (with appropriate safeguards) and that would provide for the patient to be officially recognized as *not dead* and as retaining his or her legal rights as a person. I have a feeling this will not come to pass until reversible suspended animation is acknowledged as close to being realized.

Saul went into unusual detail about the arrangements he is considering for his own revival. His trustees will have their work cut out for them, trying to make sure Saul is revived not too soon and not too late, making sure multiple attempts at revival are not precluded, and matching his criteria for establishing his personal identity. Among the latter are that the person in question is absolutely sure he is Saul, any remaining relatives and friends agree he is Saul, all available records of him are consistent with his being Saul, and the consensus of authorities in the “reanimation science” of the future agree he is Saul.

He will also “incentivize” his revival by providing for the creation of a “Committee of Protectors” (not the trustees) who will be paid only a little until Saul’s cryopreservation, then will be paid a bit more for regular meetings and reports after that, and then will be paid more than that for each attempt at his revival, with the ultimate payoff being for his successful reanimation. Apparently, small amounts of money would also be paid to unsuccessful reanimated pseudo-Sauls so that they could continue their lives as whatever-they-want-to-call-themselves, and such persons would even serve as advisors to the Committee of Protectors.

This made even my future-proofed head swim. All I can say against it, though, is that he seems to have “incentivized” multiple attempts at revival. Personally, I would prefer my “friends in the future” wait until they know what they are doing before they try to bring me back!

2007-05-24

Conference: Advances in Human Cryopreservation, May 18-20, 2007 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.

Notes Part 2 of 4

Note: These are just my summaries from my notes. As a layperson with bad handwriting and poor memory, I am sure I will have introduced errors that are not to be attributed to the speakers! Blame me not them if something is wrong or doesn’t make sense…

Brian Wowk, Ph.D., brought up the subject of intermediate temperature storage (ITS). Yes, brains fracture at liquid nitrogen temperature, and fractures turn a brain that might somehow be thawed into a brain that would have to be left for nanoscale repair technology. Brian revisits Hugh Hixon’s “How Cold is Cold Enough?”, taking into account the effects of viscosity in vitrification, and finds safe long-term temperatures adjusted upwards. At -125 degrees C the fastest biochemical reaction, catalase, would take 30 billion years. Brian also finds a zone between ice nucleation and ice formation with M22 between -80 and -90 degrees C. Ice nucleation reorients water molecules, which doesn’t damage tissues directly, but it makes ice more likely to form during rewarming, and that would damage tissues. Brian estimates possible safe temperatures for storing vitrified patients at between 120-196 degrees C.

Tissue fracturing causes loss of information and increases the difficulty people in the future will encounter trying to repair it. Fractured patients will have to wait for uploading (to which some people object personally) or advanced nanoscale repair. Annealing – alternately cooling and warming – works with kidneys to avoid fracturing. ITS was used by Greg Fahy in transporting his vitrified corneas long-distance in a dry shipper.

Brian introduced the audience to a method for ITS using an aluminum/copper thermal conducting container, temperature controller, and dewars within dewars, with liquid nitrogen along the bottom. Controlled Intermediate Vapor Storage (CIVS) is the cornerstone of storage in the long-anticipated Timeship, designed by engineer Michael Iarocci and architect Steven Valentine.

The CIVS uses a very small amount of energy (10-20 watts; it can be run off a laptop’s UPS), has no moving parts, and it fails cold (that is, if the power stops, the container drops to liquid nitrogen temperature). CIVS is four times more efficient at using liquid nitrogen than Alcor’s current system. Presently, CIVS is for research only.

Next, Charles Platt spoke again, He said he would like to see more basic equipment for cryonics scattered around the country. Charles introduced the notion of Field Vitrification using a mobile operating room and transport by a modified ground vehicle or dry shipper for air transport.

Ben Best spoke about the Cryonics Institute and the recent public release of its vitrification formula.

Stephen Van Sickle gave us the numbers about Alcor – founded in 1972, 820 members, and 76 patients, and $2.5 million in the Patient Care Trust. Alcor’s current research plans include cardiovascular bypass studies using a rat model. Operating on rats’ vasculature is obviously a challenge in itself. The research is intended to aid whole body vitrification work.

Jim Yount introduced us to the mysterious third cryonics provider, the American Cryonics Society. One research interest of theirs is storing personal writings and pictures and information about places where patients lived, people patients knew, etc. They are also pursuing “integrated internment” or suspension in cemeteries, a notion strongly opposed by Brian Wowk for several reasons.

Conference: Advances in Human Cryopreservation, May 18-20, 2007 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A.


The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet people involved in life extension and hear about the latest research. It truly is amazing, the dedication and persistence of people like Saul Kent, who has been involved since the 1960s I believe and who has contributed so much money to the effort, and people like Greg Fahy, who has been working on organ models of vitrification for over three decades. Some people, like Mike Darwin, seem to have spent their entire lives on this work. I am going to try to give my view of what happened at the conference and then follow with some reflections of my own on the issues raised.

Notes Part 1 of 4

Note: These are just my summaries from my notes. As a layperson with bad handwriting and poor memory, I am sure I will have introduced errors that are not to be attributed to the speakers! Blame me not them if something is wrong or doesn’t make sense…

Saturday morning, Charles Platt introduced the company, Suspended Animation (SA), of which he was Director until recently. SA focuses on standby, stabilization, and transport, with an emphasis on rapid intervention. SA does not house patients.

SA places the patient in an ice bath -- a vinyl-lined, wheeled stainless steel gurney. Ice water is circulated along the face and stomach by a submersible pump through plastic tubing. A mechanical "thumper" provides cardiopulmonary support. In the specially designed transport vehicle or a mortuary prep room, blood is removed and replaced with chilled perfusate.

Next Steve Harris, M.D., of Critical Care Research spoke about breakthroughs in rapid cooling of patients. In the 1980s, Peter Safar began studying the benefits of hypothermia using dogs. After human clinical trials published in 2002 showed double the survival rate, health providers have begun to induce hypothermia in victims of stroke or heart attack or other severe injury. This mild hypothermia helps to protect the brain and improve its prospects for recovery. This practice has caught on now only in hospitals in larger cities. Smaller hospital ICUs either use only an ice pack or provide no hypothermia.

Critical Care Research in southern California (funded by Life Extension Foundation), has been studying resuscitation from cardiac arrest in a dog model. The heart can be restarted after an hour if it is cooled to 18 degrees C., thus it is certainly not dead immediately. Neurons can also be resuscitated for a long time before apoptosis (self-destruction). They are not really alive; metabolism stops. But they are also not really dead!

Steve showed a photo of "Bob the Dog", who was clinically dead from cardiac arrest for 15 minutes, at room temperature. Afterwards, Bob was healthy and happy, and survived for many years.

According to Steve, the human body treats all injuries as -minor-, -penetrative-, and -infected- injuries, because historically those were the only injuries which animals could survive, and thus our bodies have evolved to handle such injuries. The body's injury response is thus -not- "intelligent". The body sends in white blood cells and does other things which may be counter-productive after cardiac arrest or similar major traumas. Protecting the brain with hypothermia may be compared to putting ice on a sprained ankle.

Many drugs have been investigated which can help protect the heart after arrest, but no drug is known to help protect the brain in recovery from insult. Some drugs have being studied in clinical trials, but so far they have been found to give little benefit in isolation. Each one contributes only a small effect since it targets only one small component of the body's maladaptive response. The Critical Care Research drug cocktail recommended for biostasis has not changed since the late 1990s, and derives from the dog studies.

Critical Care Research is exploring liquid ventillation to induce fast and easy cooling. In liquid ventillation, cold perfluorocarbon is pumped into the lungs. The brain can be cooled 7 degrees in 18 minutes with liquid ventillation. Liquid ventillation, or "lung lavage". is the fastest method of cooling down to 2 degrees C without damage. The lung lavage is synchonized with CPS breaths and requires only a small amount of perfluorocarbon.

In response to questions, it was stressed that bystanders should not attempt any action, even ice packs or cardiopulmonary support or locating heparin, until death has been pronounced and the coroner has signed off on the death. Otherwise, the bystander may create circumstances which call for an autopsy, and the autopsy will in turn severely compromise the patient's biostasis.

The Zoll AutoPulse is now replacing the Thumper -- it has a strap which fits across the entire upper body; it is battery-operated, quiet, and is being adapted for contact with water. CPS returns -warm- blood to the brain, reducing the cooling from ice water on the head: that is why liquid ventillation is helpful.

Next, Greg Fahy, of Twenty-First Century Medicine (21CM) talked about his unpublished 2007 research, partly funded by an NIH grant, to use vitrification to preserve corneas for transplantation after long-distance transport. Vitrified corneas transplanted with better results than unvitrified corneas in a monkey model.

Then he discussed his work with vitrifying rabbit kidneys. Kidneys were cooled to -45 degrees C and transplanted –in vivo-. But ice formed in the center (medulla) of the kidneys, apparently due to insufficient perfusion to this area which is relatively isolated in circulation. In addition, at 45 days’ vitrification, there was damage to one side of the kidney surface, damage Greg has named ‘surface viscoelastic injury (SVI). Greg speculated that SVI (apparently a kind of hemorrhage) might be caused by simultaneous stiffening and shrinking of the tissue there (analogous to the cracking problem at liquid nitrogen temperatures), and that different –loading techniques- (for perfusion) might affect SVI.

Greg also updated us on the study of the vitrified and thawed rat hippocampal slices. Looking for the ability to display electrical activity, he found 70% neural firing at up to 45 days, about the same as would be found in slices that had not been vitrified. He thus concludes that vitrification has no effect on neural firing or viability.

He also tested the ability of such slices to retain long-term potentiation (LTP) patterns after vitrification and rewarming, finding that the “memory response” did persist.

However, he reminded the audience that there has never been a demonstration of brain resuscitation after more than 3 hours of static cold storage, and that continuous hypothermic perfusion with good solutions was necessary to raise the time to even 4-6 hours. He has conducted 250 brain experiments since 2003, and that even with only 50% M22 (really poor perfusion with the cryoprotectant solution), still no ice foms in the brain. For some reason, the brains vitrify even though that percent solution would not vitrify in a test tube.

Shrinkage of the brain is governed by laws of osmosis (Boyle-van’t Hoff Plot). Greg asserts that brain shrinkage may be “more friend than foe,” although one supposes there must be a minimum safe cell volume. Tests with putting cryoprotectant through the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which it normally does not penetrate, actually leads to –worse- results for the brain. For some reason, M22 washout itself seems to cause significant brain damage (analogous to SVI?).

2007-05-13

Suspended Animation Conference May 18-22



I'll be at the Suspended Animation conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this weekend. I will post my impressions here. Eagerly looking forward to all the new information on new methods and approaches to cryopreservation, vitrification, and wealth preservation for the cryopreserved.

The end of death is drawing nigh. How sad it is that so few people realize their deliverance is close at hand.