X-Message-Number: 4871
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 1995 09:22:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Doug Skrecky <>
Subject: biostasis

                        BY DOUG SKRECKY
           (From Jan/Feb 1991 Mensa Canada Communications)

    If you are a terminally ill patient by definition current medical
technology will be inadequate to prevent your death. This need not always
be the case as medical technology is rapidly advancing. If your body is
placed in biostasis upon your death it may be preserved till medical
technology has advanced to the point where your illness is curable and you
could be revived. The catch is that some modest amounts of bodily
degradation occurring as a result of imperfect biostasis as well as
artifacts induced by the biostasis process itself would also have be
reversed. Such an achievement would have to involve vast numbers of
microscopic automated molecular repair machines. Although science is
advancing rapidly a very long time will still have to elapse before bodies
placed in biostasis could be successfully reanimated by such advanced
technology. My own guesstimate of this time ranges from 200 to 1000 years. 
In order to be relatively confident that reanimation could take place
biostasis will have to preserve corpses from virtually all degradation for
1000 years. Do there currently exist preservation methods sufficiantly
robust to serve as a basis for effective biostasis? Lets see..... 
    Lowering temperature is an ineffective means for preserving bodily
structures. After death brain structures in particular are rapidily
degraded. Even at 4 degrees C after blood flow is interrupted to the brain
almost 50% of dendrite spines are destroyed within 4 hours. After 24 hours
this figuare rises to 74%. Fortunately only 4% are lost over the first 45
minutes post mortum -probably because it takes a while for brain cells to
die. *1 Vitamin E injections can reduce brain damage induced by
interruptions in the blood supply. *2 This would probably buy a little
extra time for more effective preservation methods to be applied. One
could expect good results if effective preservation methods are utilized
during the first hour postmortum. 
    By slightly lowering temperature to -8 degrees meat takes 2 months to
lose its culinary value. *3 A further temperature lowering of just 12
degrees can not explain this extraordinary improvement over the results
obtained at 4 degrees. Some other factor must account for the improvement. 
Of course most water freezes at 0 degrees and this would make water less
bioavailible for degradative reactions. In effect freezing preserves
biological structures by the same method used in mummification -by
preventing water catabolized reactions from destroying tissue. A direct
comparison of freezing with dessication is instructive however. 
    After 138 years of permafrost burial the best preserved corpse from
the ill fated Franklin expedition was that of Petty Officer John
Torrington. Upon thawing his corpse it was discovered that only a
yellowish granular fluid remained of the brain. Even in tissues known to
be resistent to autolysis such as heart muscle all cellular structure was
found to be destroyed. *4
    Although the ancient Egyptians treated some corpses with a resin this
substance did not in fact help preserve them. The sole method used for
preserving mummies was dessication. Unfortunately dessication in a desert
takes a while and the corpses always decomposed to a degree before most
water was evaporated. Nonetheless even after 3000 years considerable
cellular detail remains in skin samples from mummies. *5 Although brain
tissue was usually discarded during the mummification process one
relatively poorly preserved but intact 3200 year old mummy was found to
retain some neuron remanents in brain tissue. *6 There can be little doubt
that if cellular structure was preserved by some other means while corpses
were being prepared for dessication that this method alone could insure
considerable preservation of brain cellular structures over a 1000 year
span. The same can not be said for permafrost burial. 
    Embalming with modern fixatives is one method which would be effective
for preserving biological structure temporarily while a corpse is being
dessicated. Although the embalming fluid commonly used by morticians
features only formaldehyde as an active agent we can improve on this
considerably. An industrial strength embalming fluid suitable for
preserving even the finest details of brain cellular structure can be
formulated by combining formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde and acrolein. *7
Although mummification requires that embalming need preserve structures
only temporarily until they are dehydrated embalming seems to possess some
long term preservative ability all of its own. Although most brain
phospholipids are hydrolyzed in formaldehyde fixed brains within 12 years,
many other brain constituents are completely unaffected by a quarter of a
century of storage. *8 Even after 8000 years the remains of a human brain
gradually fixed by the tannic acid in a peat bog still yielded some traces
of cell structure. *9
    Both embalming and dessication are independantly capable of preserving
some cellular structure over a 1000 year period. One would expect that the
results attainable when both are used in conjunction would enable
successful reanimation to be effected provided reanimation technology is
developed in this time frame. The odds look good -especially since several
other easily applied methods when used in conjunction are known to halt
the maillard reaction which causes protein in mummies to blacken with
time. These include adding nonreducing sugars to the embalming fluid and
storing the corpse in a light and oxygen proof container with a dessicant. 
*10 Sucrose or common table sugar also greatly reduces the damage induced
directly in proteins by the process of dessication itself. *11 It is
reasonable to expect further technical refinements as research in this
area progresses. One possible such refinement might be the use of
poly(ethylene glycol) to eliminate all dessication induced damage. 
Preliminary research indicates that this substance is able to eliminate
freezing induced damage to human protein. *12
    I believe it is possible for virtually any cemetery in the desert of
the American SouthWest to run a profitable sideline mummifying bodies
-derived primarily from California. A portible embalming unit in a large
van could visit a terminally ill prospect in their home or hospital to
provide prompt and high quality embalming with industrial strength
embalming fluid. The resulting corpse is then transported to their
mummification facility where the corpse is gradually air dried. The result
is then placed in a double hulled steel coffin, which is packed with
dessicant, then wielded shut and placed in the cemetary plot where it is
encased in concrete. The name of the company providing these services
would be something like - (but of course) Ramses Corporation. I imagine
the cemetary would remain something of a tourist attraction centuries
after the corporation itself goes bust -till the development of
reanimation technology. 
    After talking to some people about the possibility of reanimation I
discovered it was fairly easy to convince them that it was possible, but
found that the main objections to it were religious in nature. After
crudgeling my fortunately as yet unfixed brain in search of an answer for
these objections a solution to most of these suddenly dawned! What happens
to your "soul" when you die when your remains are perfectly preserved? The
answer is -nothing in particular. Every night we naturally experience
periods of dreamless sleep in which we are no longer conscious. Make this
nightly occurance last 1000 or even 10000 years and you have what happens
to perfectly preserved corpses. Biostasis of your body puts your mind to
deep sleep. The only difference is that when you wake up after this (to
you) brief interval, you will have to learn a new language and customs
instead of yawning and then going to work as usual. Biostasis is not a
replacement for an afterlife, which exists or doesn't exist as the case
may be. It is merely insurance in case there is none. On the scale of
eternity a delay of a mere 10000 years before entering an afterlife is a
small price to pay for such insurance.  

*1 "The Influence of Post-mortem
Fixation Delay on the Reliability of the Goigi Silver Impregnation" Brain
Research 143-147 Vol.6 1983 
*2 "Protective Effect of Alpha-tocopherol on
Ischemic Neuronal Damage in the Gerbil Hippocampus" Brain Research 335-338
Vol.510 1990 
*3 "Comparitive Histochemical and Biochemical Study on
Storage Characteristics and Culinary Values of Fish, Goat and Chicken
Muscle"  Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 387-391 Vol. 1988 
*4 "The Last Franklin Expedition: Report of a Postmortem Examination of a
Crew Member" Canadian Medical Association Journal 115-117 Vol.135 1986. 
*5 "Mummified Skin -An Exercise in Preservation" International Journal of
Dermatology 46-60 Vol.22 No.1 1983 
*6 "Autopsy of an Egyptian Mummy(Nakht
-ROM I) Canadian Medical Association Journal 461-476 Vol.117 1977 
*7 "Fixation of the Central Nervous System by Perfusion of the Cerebral
Ventricles With a Threefold Aldehyde Mixture" Brain Research 395-412
Vol.15 1969 
*8 "The Action of Formaldehdye Solutions on Human Brain
Lipids" Journal of Histochemistry & Cytochemistry 704-709 Vol.10 1962 
*9 "Anatomical, Cellular and Molecular Analysis of 8000 Year Old Human Brain
Tissue From the Windover Archaelogical Site" Nature 803-806 Vol.323 1986
*10 "Degradation of Functional Integrity During Long-Term Storage of a
Freeze-Dried Biological Membrane" Cryobiology 119-127 Vol.22 1985 
*11 "Long-Term Preservation of Dried Phosphofructokinase by Sugars and
Sugar/Zinc Mixtures" Cryobiology 372-376 Vol.25 1988 
*12 "The Mechanism of
Cryoprotection of Proteins by Solutes" Cryobiology 244-255 Vol.25 1988

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=4871