Your eyes open you’re feeling cold and everything looks unfamiliar. Oh yes, I remember now. I was cryonically frozen. That money that I had paid them doesn’t seem like a waste I wonder if I can take that trip to Mars I always wanted to do or perhaps even further? I wonder if there is world peace or world war? Perhaps the money that I left in the bank has gained enough interest to make me a billionaire? On the downside there probably isn’t anybody alive and that I know. Well, a little bit more life wouldn’t do me any harm I’m glad I listened to that doctor.
The idea behind cryonics is that one might (or might not) be able to freeze their dying body, head or brain until a time when medical technology has advanced enough to cure whatever your medical problem might be, whether you’ve got cancer, a headache or just old age. If you just freeze your head, obviously, you’d have to wait until science gets good at building artificial bodies too.
The problem here is that people weren’t really made to be frozen. Well, no, actually we freeze fine but it’s the thawing out that’s the problem. Our bodies are about seventy percent water and when that water freezes it turns into tiny, jagged ice crystals. When this happens in our bodies, the ice crystals poke all our cells full of little holes, and it’s very important for our cells not to be full of little holes, if we want to be alive, that is. The first people to have themselves cryogenically frozen (people started doing it back in the Sixties) are going to have to add that to their list of things for future doctors to fix.
And then there’s ischemia and reperfusion. A person can be technically dead for about five minutes and still come back. After that, though, if revival is attempted there’s trouble. Oddly enough, it’s not only the having been dead that gets you, as it were, but the coming back to life—being without oxygen for too long (ischemia) is obviously no good for you, but so is having oxygen flood back into the cells again, a process called “reperfusion.” And since a person must be declared legally dead before their body may be cryogenically preserved, part of the challenge then becomes how to freeze or vitrify them in the four to six minute window of time before ischemia and reperfusion become an issue Otherwise that type of cellular damage will have to be added to the list of things to fix too.
If you decide to have yourself placed in cryonic suspension, what happens to you today? Well, first, you have to join a cryonics facility and pay an annual membership fee (in the area of $400 a year). Then, when your heart stops beating and you are pronounced “legally dead,” an emergency response team from the facility springs into action. The team stabilizes your body, supplying your brain with enough oxygen and blood to preserve minimal function until you can be transported to the suspension facility. Your body is packed in ice and injected with heparin (an anticoagulant) to prevent your blood from clotting during the trip.
A medical team awaits the arrival of your body at the cryonics facility. Once you are transported to the cryonics facility, the actual “freezing” begins.The cryonics team must first remove the water from your cells and replace it with a glycerol-based chemical mixture called acryoprotectant — a sort of human antifreeze. The goal is to protect the organs and tissues from forming ice crystals at extremely low temperatures. This process, called vitrification (deep cooling without freezing), puts the cells into a state of suspended animation.
Once the water in your body is replaced with the cryoprotectant, your body is cooled on a bed of dry ice until it reaches -130 C (-202 F), completing the vitrification process. The next step is to insert your body into an individual container that is then placed into a large metal tank filled with liquid nitrogen at a temperature of around -196 degrees Celsius (-320 degrees Fahrenheit). Your body is stored head down, so if there were ever a leak in the tank, your brain would stay immersed in the freezing liquid.
Cryonics isn’t cheap — it can cost up to $150,000 to have your whole body preserved. But for the more frugal futurists, a mere $50,000 will preserve your brain for perpetuity — an option known asneurosuspension. Hopefully for those who have been preserved this way, technology will come up with a way to clone or regenerate the rest of the body Dozens of people are being stored in cryonic facilities. Probably the most famous of them is baseball legend Ted Williams. But no one has actually been revived, because the technology to do so still does not exist.
Even though people in cryonic suspension haven’t yet been revived, living organisms can be — and have been — brought back from a dead or near-dead state. Defibrillators bring accident and heart attack victims back from the dead on an almost daily basis. Neurosurgeons often cool patients’ bodies so they can operate on aneurysms — enlarged blood vessels in the brain — without damaging or rupturing them. Human embryos that are frozen in fertility clinics, defrosted and implanted in a mother’s uterus grow into perfectly normal human beings.
Cryobiologists are hopeful that a new technology called nanotechnology will make revival a reality someday. Nanotechnology uses microscopic machines to manipulate single atoms– the tiniest units of an organism — to build or repair virtually anything, including human cells and tissues. The hope is that, one day, nanotechnology will repair not only the cellular damage caused by the freezing process, but also the damage caused by aging and disease. Some cryobiologists predict that the first cryonic revival might occur somewhere around the year 2040.
The question is do you or do you not use cryogenics to freeze yourself when you die? Everybody has the feeling that they will live for ever and why bother about that dying thing that happens later on in life that looks so far away when you are young and carefree. It is also a horrible thing to think about but if a doctor Offered you the chance that possibly and very possibly you could be revived in the future and the other option was death most people would take the very slight possibility of cryogenic revival.
Oh and don’t forget your pet, there are over 60 already in the fridge.