X-Message-Number: 859
From: Charles Platt
Subject: Alcor New York News: June, 1992

[ Charles Platt kindly provided an electronic copy of the June 1992
  Alcor New York News for distribution to this mailing list.
  (The spiffy graphics of his hardcopy version are, of course,
  missing below.)  Note: The Alcor New York News is not the same
  as the Alcor New York Minutes which, to date, exist only in
  hardcopy form. - KQB ]

                              Alcor New York News 
                              Number 5: June 1992

                                 NEXT MEETING 

Our next meeting will be on Sunday, June 21st, commencing 2 P.M. at the usual 
place: 72nd. Street Studios, 131 West 72nd. Street, in Manhattan. There'll be 
no special guests this time, but we will have a set of actuarial tables 
furnished by an insurance company, so you can find out how long the insurance 
industry thinks we have to live (and figure out how to prove them wrong). Come 
and join us! 

                          NY TEAM DOUBLES ITS EFFORTS 

At our May meeting, we received good news from Stanley Gerber and Robby 
Henderson. Both of them are planning to visit Alcor in August for a week of 
training to certify them as emergency medical technicians. Also, in September, 
they will both enter classes in New York that will eventually qualify them as 

In addition, all members of our stabilization team, including the associate 
members, are learning protocol and medications. Training sessions will now 
take place twice a month (on the second and fourth Sundays) instead of once a 
month. And if a suspension occurs within the next couple of months, Curtis 
Henderson will go there in person to observe and participate. 

Lastly, Gerry Arthus has donated a van which can be used to transport 
equipment to the scene of an emergency. The only snag is, we still have to pay 
the insurance on the van. Needless to say, if anyone feels inclined to make a 
contribution, this would be much appreciated. Generally speaking, Alcor New 
York is not supported financially by Alcor in Riverside. We're improving our 
local capabilities on our own initiative, for our own benefit--and for yours! 
If you are a suspension member within 500 miles of New York City, you could be 
saving your own life if you help us to help you in the event of an emergency. 
[ Request for Alcor New York donations to be sent to me (the Treasurer of
  Alcor New York) elided to not appear too self-serving.  Send email to
  Brenda Peters () for more information. - KQB ]

                             NOT-SO-COLD STORAGE? 

Several of us have been wondering (again) if liquid nitrogen is really the 
best way to preserve cryonics patients. The advantages are obvious: it's 
cheap, supplies are plentiful, the dewars have been proven over a period of 
years, maintenance is minimal, no thermostatic control is required, and the 
patient stays frozen at a constant temperature even during power 

But liquid nitrogen has one big disadvantage: it's too cold. At -196 Celsius, 
human organs tend to fracture. Nanotechnology may eventually be able to repair 
this kind of damage, as well as tiny rips and tears on a cell-by-cell basis. 
But wouldn't it be better to freeze patients in such a way that fracturing 
doesn't occur in the first place? 

It could be done. A slightly higher storage temperature would eliminate the 
fracturing problem while diminishing the "life expectancy" of the stored 
patient to perhaps 500 years. This seems an acceptable tradeoff. But there are 

First, a refrigerator obviously requires uninterrupted power. A backup 
generator can be installed for use during power outages, but this entails 
additional expense and still doesn't provide a one-hundred-percent guarantee. 

Second, refrigerators that would be large enough for whole-body patients are 
designed for horizontal installation, requiring a lot more space than a 
vertical dewar. Could the refrigerators be turned on end, and still work 
satisfactorily? We don't know. Could they be stacked in a system of racks? 
Probably, but it would not be a trivial construction project. 

Third, the refrigerators themselves could be more expensive to purchase than 

We could consider constructing a room-sized walk-in refrigerator of our own 
design, with space for dozens of patients. This would provide an economy of 
scale (a large refrigerator is potentially more efficient than a small one, 
because its volume is greater relative to its wall area). But this again would 
be a major project. 

All in all, switching over to refrigerators might be like going back to the 
early years of cryonics, when no one knew the potential pitfalls and problems 
associated with tanks, and there were some catastrophic failures before we 
learned how to do the job right. So--are there any other alternatives? 

                                  New Options 

A few possibilities come to mind. One would be to add a system of electric 
heating around a patient inside a dewar of liquid nitrogen. An "electric 
blanket" under a thick jacket of thermal insulation would need very little 
power to keep the patient at a slightly higher temperature than the -196 
Celsius of the surrounding nitrogen. On the other hand, it would have to be 
reliable, it would entail a constant power drain, more liquid nitrogen would 
be boiled off, the extra bulk of the blanket and its insulation might make it 
impossible for two patients to share a dewar, and a thermostat would be 

Another possibility would be a dewar cooled by a liquid-helium probe. In this 
scenario, the patient is surrounded by air inside the dewar. The probe 
protrudes through the lid and cooling occurs by convection. Once again, a 
thermostat is needed to maintain the correct temperature, and an 
uninterruptible power supply is necessary. Also, if two patients shared a 
dewar, the second one would have to be pre-cooled before insertion, to avoid 
disrupting the temperature of the first. 

Which of these alternatives--if any--should Alcor pursue? We're interested in 
your comments and opinions. Write to us, or come to our next meeting and make 
your views known. 

                           A CONVERSATION WITH KRYOS 

Kryos is a man who probably knows more about freezing body organs than any 
other researcher in the world. (He'd like to use his real name, but is 
reluctant to do so for fear of losing grant money. Cryonics is still a dirty 
word in the cryobiological community.) 

Kryos agrees that cryonic suspension, as it exists today, is better than no 
suspension at all. But he is extremely unhappy about the amount of damage 
being caused by the freezing process, even with modern cryoprotectants and a 
slow, controlled rate of cooling. 

He has some faith in nanotechnology, but he also feels that repairing freezing 
damage will be a specialized job, or series of jobs, since different specific 
techniques will be needed for different areas of the brain. Roving 
nanomachines will have to be specially programmed to handle each task, and 
writing these programs will be challenging, to say the least. (It's worth 
noting that so far, software has not kept pace with developments in hardware. 
We don't even have a completely reliable graphics-oriented operating system 
for a microcomputer. A program to tell nanomachines how to repair the billions 
of cells in the human brain would be almost unimaginably complicated by 
comparison, requiring expertise in both microbiology and robotics.) 

                                Minimal Damage 

So--who is going to write this difficult, specialized software? We can imagine 
a future where the techniques theoretically exist, but programmers are fully 
occupied with tasks that have a higher priority. Why spend countless man-years 
figuring out how to repair and resuscitate a small number of corpsicles from 
the twentieth century, when the same time could be spent developing cures for 

Since we can't rely on programmers of the future, we should be doing our best 
to minimize freezing damage right now. Ideally, we should develop suspension 
to the point where only minimal, survivable damage occurs. 

How can this be done? Some of us have been talking about formaldehyde or 
similar fixing agents as an alternative to freezing. It might be a lot simpler 
for nanobots to undo the simple chemical bonds created by a fixing agent than 
to have them repair chaotic freezing damage. But Kryos reports that agents 
such as formaldehyde are not as permanent as they should be. In his 
experience, proteins start to unravel over time. 

How about using a fixing agent as well as freezing the patient? Gerry Arthus 
had expressed optimism about this possibility, since the fixing agent creates 
a lattice of robust molecular bonds that might resist freezing damage. But 
Kryos reports that when he tried this with a rabbit brain, the damage was 
actually worse than usual. Apparently, the rigid structure was less resilient, 
and was pierced by ice crystals instead of partially yielding to them. 

His answer is the same now as it was ten years ago: vitrification. This is the 
process of freezing tissue in such a way that ice crystals never form. Using a 
combination of cryoprotectants, a controlled rate of cooling, and containment 
in a high-pressure chamber (500 atmospheres or more), samples of tissue have 
been successfully frozen and thawed with virtually no damage visible. 

But scaling up from a small sample to a whole organ is another matter 
entirely. Also, the concentration of cryoprotectant that is required can be 
high enough to be toxic to human tissue. And, each human organ has its own 
ideal mix of pressure, cryoprotectant, and cooling rate, creating formidable 
problems if someone wants a whole-body suspension. 

Even if vitrification scored some real successes, there would be a huge jump 
required to take it out of the laboratory, into the field. Imagine a pressure 
vessel big enough to accommodate a human head, let alone a whole human body. 
Imagine sophisticated equipment that would precisely control and monitor every 
variable in the process. Clearly, the equipment would cost much more than 
Alcor can currently afford. 

                                 A First Step 

So, what can we do? When Kryos was asked to name the most important single 
improvement we could make in our current suspension techniques, after a 
moment's thought, he said it would be computer-controlled perfusion. A regular 
PC clone with a fairly simple set of interfaces could control the rate of 
cooling and the mix of cryoprotectants in response to feedback from 
temperature probes in the patient. Kryos already has a similar lash-up in his 
lab. He figured it would cost Alcor about $40,000. Its advantage would be that 
precise control over a suspension, and an automatic, minute-by-minute record 
of its progress. It would be a big step away from the improvised, back-alley  
mode of cryonics, toward a laboratory procedure. 

Maybe $40,000 sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money! But it's far 
less than Alcor has been spending on legal fees--and a mere fraction of the 
cost of a fancy new building. So, where should our priorities really lie? 

                       CLASSIC VIDEOS IN OUR MAY MEETING 

Those of us who attended the May meeting of Alcor New York were treated to not 
one but two videos from the dawn of cryonic history. We saw Curtis Henderson 
and one-time funeral director Fred Horn demonstrating stabilization procedures 
as they existed in 1967. And we saw Curtis with his wife Diane, moving an 
actual patient out of dry ice, into liquid nitrogen, in a suspension that he 
conducted in 1972. These irreplacable videos (made originally as home movies) 
gave us a unique glimpse of cryonics history. We like to think that one day, 
they might be as valuable as film of Goddard's experiments with rocketry, or 
the Wright Brothers' first flights. Thanks to Curtis, for bringing them along 

P.S. Thanks to Stanley Gerber for helping with this newsletter. 

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