An Example of Present Work on Improving Vitrification

Interest in developing means of reversible vitrification for tissue preservation has been growing outside the cryonics community in recent years. This is a good thing for cryonics as an industry, as a greater interest in reversible tissue preservation in the broader research community will lead to both technological improvements that can be used by cryonics providers and a greater acceptance of cryonics. Cryonics is a legitimate approach to medical intervention where there is no other option for the patient, but despite greater public support for cryonics from scientists, there remains considerable and unfounded hostility within some portions of the research community. Hopefully this will change in the years ahead with meaningful progress towards the broader use of vitrification:

Researchers have discovered a new approach to "vitrification," or ice-free cryopreservation, that could ultimately allow a much wider use of extreme cold to preserve tissues and even organs for later use. Cryopreservation has already found widespread use in simpler applications such as preserving semen, blood, embryos, plant seeds and some other biological applications. But it is often constrained by the crystallization that occurs when water freezes, which can damage or destroy tissues and cells. To address this, researchers have used various types of cryoprotectants that help reduce cell damage during the freezing process - among them is ethylene glycol, literally the same compound often used in automobile radiators to prevent freezing. A problem is that many of these cryoprotectants are toxic, and can damage or kill the very cells they are trying to protect from the forces of extreme cold.

In the new research, the engineers developed a mathematical model to simulate the freezing process in the presence of cryoprotectants, and identified a way to minimize damage. They found that if cells are initially exposed to a low concentration of cryoprotectant and time is allowed for the cells to swell, then the sample can be vitrified after rapidly adding a high concentration of cryoprotectants. The end result is much less overall toxicity. The research showed that healthy cell survival following vitrification rose from about 10 percent with a conventional approach to more than 80 percent with the new optimized procedure. "The biggest single problem and limiting factor in vitrification is cryoprotectant toxicity, and this helps to address that. The model should also help us identify less toxic cryoprotectants, and ultimately open the door to vitrification of more complex tissues and perhaps complete organs."

If that were possible, many more applications of vitrification could be feasible, especially as future progress is made in the rapidly advancing field of tissue regeneration, in which stem cells can be used to grow new tissues or even organs. Tissues could be made in small amounts and then stored until needed for transplantation. Organs being used for transplants could be routinely preserved until a precise immunological match was found for their use. Conceptually, a person could even grow a spare heart or liver from their own stem cells and preserve it through vitrification in case it was ever needed.



I thought that glass transition were the main obstacle for successful vitrification not cryoprotectant toxicity. There should be more coordinated R&D.

The website of OPA has expired:

Here are 2 projects related to toxicology in other fields. There should be similar initiatives for cryoprotectant toxicity and there should be a database:

Posted by: Tor Hakonsen at November 30th, 2015 7:59 AM


when would you say that the time has passed for donations of regular individuals (even ones in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars)?

You said that we fund basic research and not clinical translation. Also if prototype SENS or something very close is finished around 2030 does that mean that individuals like us should continue donating for the expensive part (clinical translation), basic research for second generation SENS or you would say that we are more or less finished?

If you say that we should keep donating, I would guess that the effect would be significant diminishing returns and the most important impact to be made by us is in the let's say next 15 years.

Also would you say that vitrification methods will enable us to say in couple of decades that cryonics is not a gamble anymore?

What are your thoughts?

Posted by: Reader at November 30th, 2015 8:14 AM

@Reader: I don't think that time ever really passes until a cure is reached, in the case of aging meaning sufficient rejuvenation to halt aging.

It will always be the case that the next generation of technologies need basic research funded, and that only really happens through philanthropy, and regular individuals can make a real difference there. It is possible that this will change, of course, and that would be pleasant, but I'm not holding my breath.

The only difference that first generation SENS would make is to take some of the time pressure away, but there will still need to be a second generation, etc, etc.

I have no opinions on how fast progress will happen for cryonics technologies - it's a classic case of funding levels so low that progress even towards well-described goals is unpredictable.

Posted by: Reason at November 30th, 2015 2:58 PM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.