X-Message-Number: 283
From: Brown/Hinckley
Subject: Re: Scientific Basis Of Cryonics 
Date: 28 Feb 1991

Date: Wed, 27 Feb 1991 14:47:02 -0600
Subject: So there isn't any research backing up cryonics?

Well, having asked twice and still received no response, am I to assume
that there is no body of research sustantiating the possibility that
something which has died can be frozen, thawed, and re-animated?

Isn't it kind of hard to encourage people to join cryonics contracts if
this is true? Or is it more along the lines of a religion (a belief in an
'afterlife' founded on faith alone).

Do not think I am making fun of this, I am not. I am interested in the
concept, but would like to know a lot more about its basis.

VOICENET:Scott Hinckley |USnail:110 Pine Ridge Road #608 Huntsville Al35801
ATTNET  : (205)461-2073   ^^^^^ as in as slow as a
DISCLAIMER: All contained herein are my opinions, they do not represent the
            opinions or feelings of Boeing or its management.

[ Scott, you sound rather frustrated and I think I can see why.  Apparently
  due to email failures, your first attempt to get information about the
  scientific basis of cryonics was unanswered.  The second time all you got
  was a brief referral to the publication:
    "THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF CRYONICS (selected reprints) $10.00."
  which must have sounded to you something like:
    "So, you have a question!  Well, just send us $10. and we will tell
    you a little more..."
  I gave just that pointer to a publication because that was a lot easier and
  faster than attempting to explain it all myself.  (Also, other people on
  the mailing list know a lot more about cryonics than I do.  But they are
  busy, too.)  Nevertheless, once you have read message #157 (Introduction
  to Cryonics), an email message specifically on the scientific basis for
  cryonics would be useful to have.  Here is my quick overview of that, and
  undoubtedly people on the mailing list can improve on it.


  There is a lot of indirect evidence that cryonic suspension can work
  but not much direct evidence.  (For example, no mammal has yet been frozen
  solid, thawed, and walked away.)  This indirect evidence is of two kinds:
    (1) current knowledge in biology, medicine, and cryobiology and
    (2) current knowledge of physics and expected progress in technology.
  Before we proceed further, though, three things must be made clear.  First,
  when we talk about living organisms we are talking about physical systems
  made of atoms.  The difference between a healthy, functioning organism and
  an unhealthy, nonfunctioning ("dead") organism is a difference in the
  arrangement of its atoms.  When technology becomes sufficiently powerful to
  control in detail the arrangement of atoms, the difference between alive but
  nonfunctional (ie. unhealthy) and dead will be based on how much structure
  or information remains of the organism.  Second, the current legal criteria
  for life vs. death are based on function, not structure.  When respiration
  and heart beat stop, the doctor declares (clinical) death and signs a piece
  of paper.  Biological death does not occur until much later, when the
  structure of the cells of the body has deteriorated.  Third, cryonic
  suspension is best seen as a life-saving medical procedure to protect
  terminally ill patients from further deterioration which would make them
  truly dead (not just legally "dead").  For cryonic suspension to be
  successful, we do not need to master the repair technologies yet; creating
  good preservation technologies and stable organizations to do the suspensions
  and care for the patients is sufficient.  With that in mind, here is some of
  the indirect evidence for success of cryonic suspension.

  Some species of frogs, toads, turtles, salamanders, insects, and even
  squirrels survive sub-freezing temperatures during winter hibernation.
  They achieve this mostly by increasing their levels of glycerol/glycogen.
  (Oct. 22, 1988 New Scientist, July 8, 1989 Science News, etc.)

  The cover article of the Feb. 13, 1988 issue of Science News describes some
  microorganisms that survive dessication by forming hydrogen bonds between the
  cell membranes and sugars such as trehalose.  These microorganisms
  automatically come back to life-as-normal when you add water!

  In the laboratory, golden hamsters have survived (without behavioral
  abnormalities) when 60% of the water in their brains was converted to ice.
  Also, isolated cat brains have resumed normal function (according to EEG
  measurements) upon rewarming and perfusion with fresh blood after
  enduring -20 C for several days.

  A large number of mammalian tissues (corneas, blood fractions, etc.) have
  survived being frozen and thawed so well that they are used commercially.
  Almost all dairy cattle (in the USA) were produced by artificial insemination
  with sperm that were preserved in liquid nitrogen.  Many humans were
  produced from artificial insemination with (human, not cattle) sperm that had
  been frozen in liquid nitrogen.  Furthermore, hundreds of humans alive today
  were once embryos frozen in liquid nitrogen.

  The cover article of the Aug. 29, 1987 issue of Science News describes
  vitrification, which achieves cooling to a glassy state without the water
  crystallizing into ice.  The advantage of this is that the cells do not
  suffer the mechanical damage from the crystallization.  Greg Fahy has
  successfully vitrified rabbit kidneys, thawed them, and reattached them
  to rabbits and shown that they still function.

  Human memory does not disappear after a few minutes of ischemia.
  In several instances, children have drowned in cold water for long
  periods (up to an hour) and survived, usually without brain damage.
  Some kinds of surgical procedures involve cooling the patient down and
  cutting off the blood supply to the brain for up to an hour.  (The
  patients survive without brain damage.)  Laboratory experiments on dogs
  have shown long-term survival (without memory loss or major dysfunction)
  after washing out the blood with a cryoprotectant solution and cooling the
  animal to just a few degress above freezing for several hours.

  Individual brain cells usually spontaneously recover from low sub-zero
  temperatures (with modest cryoprotection).  Furthermore, electron
  photography has shown that the structure of synapses (where some or most
  aspects of memory are thought to be stored) is well-preserved under
  freezing at liquid nitrogen temperature.  At that liquid nitrogen
  temperature, calculations show that the structure will remain well preserved
  for at least hundreds of years.

  We have good reason to expect development of the technologies required
  to repair people who are cryonically suspended.  The ability to finely
  control placement of atoms does not violate physical law and we already
  have an excellent proof-of-principle of that; the proteins, enzymes, etc.
  of our own bodies are functioning nanomachines.  The book "Engines of
  Creation" by Eric Drexler describes Nanotechnology (molecular engineering)
  and since 1986, when the book was published, the Foresight Institute
  newsletter "Foresight Update" has tracked the progress toward nanotechnology.
  Progress has been faster than expected.  Scanning Tunnel Microscope
  and related technologies already have not only imaged but also manipulated
  individual atoms.  Designer proteins have arrived.

  There is much more, but I hope that gives a good idea of where we are at.
  If I misrepresented some research or missed mentioning something important
  somebody please send the correction, addition, or clarification. - KQB]

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