Ice-free cryopreservation, or vitrification, methods for storing tissue engineered blood vessels have clear advantages over conventional freezing techniques and can accelerate the development and clinical availability of this alternate source of vascular grafts for surgical bypass procedures, according to a report in the February 2006 issue (Volume 12, Number 2) issue of Tissue Engineering
Vitrification is an ice-free alternative to conventional cryopreservation techniques. Whereas freezing of tissue samples results in damaging ice formation within cells and in the surrounding extracellular matrix, vitrification cryopreserves tissues without ice crystal formation. In vitrification, a supercooled liquid cryoprotectant solidifies, converting to a glassy state rather than to ice.
The authors demonstrated negligible ice formation in the vitrified samples. Importantly, they reported that engineered blood vessel specimens cryopreserved using vitrification had viability similar to that of fresh tissue and had contractile capability nearly 83% of fresh blood vessels, compared to less contractility of less than 11% for frozen specimens. They concluded that vitrification is a feasible storage method for tissue engineered blood vessels, which are being developed as an alternative source of vascular grafts for use in coronary or peripheral bypass surgical procedures.
All of which, of course, Alcor researchers have been demonstrating for a while now - but Alcor, like the rest of the cryonics community, is an oftimes marginal, non-profit, volunteer-driven, philanthropy-dependent organization. This is not to demean the worthy work accomplished there, but it is not a recipe for growth and long-term stability.
It is my contention that the cryonics industry needs to generate viable for-profit businesses in related areas of medical technology in order to support growth and a transition to a professional workforce for cryonic suspension services. This is clearly a possible path for the future, and is - to me, at least - clearly the best path for the future of cryonics. If we accept that cryonics is an entirely rational, responsible and ethical response to the problem of age-related death in a world on the verge of working anti-aging medicine, then the best path forward is that which generates the infrastructure capable of providing cryonics services to as many as possible who are able to pay the modest price.
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