UK Cryonics and Cryobiology Research Group Launched

A group of UK researchers have recently banded together to coordinate research into cryonics and cryobiology, the low-temperature preservation of tissues. Only small collections of cells can presently be reversibly cryopreserved, but there is a strong incentive to build the means to reversibly preserve whole organs and other large tissue structures. This is probably a matter of firstly developing a better form of cryoprotectant, one that is minimally toxic and easily cleared, and secondly putting more effort into producing robust, minimally damaging cooling and warming protocols. When developed, the ability to store whole organs indefinitely will prove useful in the very near future to expand the pool of donor organs, and remain useful in the decades ahead to reduce the cost of producing and delivering organs as needed. Never underestimate how much money can be saved by the ability to warehouse products as needed.

The lack of any present ability to reverse the state of cryopreservation in complex tissues is not an impediment to the use of indefinite low-temperature storage as a form of emergency medical care, as has been the case in the cryonics industry for decades now. A good cryopreservation as rapidly as possible after clinical death means that the fine structure of the brain is likely preserved, based on present evidence, the data of the mind is thus retained, and the patient can wait for as long as it takes for medical technology to advance to the point at which restoration and repair is feasible. A future in which a cryopreserved brain can be restored to life is also a future in which the cell and tissue damage that causes aging can be repaired, or indeed a new body built to order. Both of those goals in advanced medicine are well understood and near term in comparison to the sort of molecular nanotechnology industry needed to clear out toxic cryoprotectant and go cell by cell to repair the other harms caused by present means of preservation.

In any case, this new research effort is coordinated by João de Magalhães, whom regular readers will recognize as one of the members of the transhumanist community of past decades who followed his inclinations into aging research, and now leads a laboratory in that field, doing his part to push forward the state of the art. A whole range of figures and initiatives relating to human longevity, including the Aubrey de Grey and the SENS Research Foundation, can be traced back to that small community of futurists with a strong interest in radical life extension. If you can clearly see the future you want, you should reach for it, help to make it real.

It is interesting that de Magalhães chooses to now make some inroads into supporting progress in cryonics alongside his work on aging. It is perhaps in the nature of a calculation that everyone should make: at what point do you think that the intersection of progress towards rejuvenation therapies and your own personal decline into old age makes it smart to put more effort towards advancing the state of the cryonics industry? Cryonics and cryopreservation is the only viable backup plan for those of us who will age to death before the advent of working rejuvenation treatments. If I were a decade older or SENS-style rejuvenation research was not making at least slow progress then I'd certainly be putting more of my efforts into supporting the cryonics industry. I should probably be doing more than I am on that front regardless. People in the middle of the present span of life shouldn't be complacent; research in the life sciences takes a long time, and the backup plan of cryonics is there for a reason. I encourage you to think over your own balance of choices.

In the meanwhile, congratulations are due de Magalhães for setting up this initiative and in doing so helping to improve the state of cryonics. One of the best things that can happen for the small cryonics industry is for organ cryopreservation to prosper and be adopted by the medical mainstream; it will mean more funding and legitimacy for lines of research and improvement in methodologies that can also be applied to cryonics, meaning cryopreservation as emergency medical care for people who cannot be saved in any other way.

New UK cryobiology research network launched

A new network has been established by UK scientists to advance and promote research into cryobiology - the effects of extremely low temperature on living organisms and cells. The UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network is being coordinated by Dr Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool's Institute of Integrative Biology, who studies the molecular basis of ageing.

At present, cryopreservation technology is only successful for cell lines and very small tissues. More research is required before whole organs can successfully be cryopreserved while retaining their biological integrity. Dr de Magalhaes said: "Cryobiology is a crucial area of research for modern biotechnology due to the importance of biobanking; from developing reliable stem cell storage systems, organ banking for transplants as well as storage for engineered tissues."

Cryonics has been a topic of much debate over the years, with many scientists doubting whether current cryogenically frozen individuals can ever be brought to life. Dr de Magalhaes said: "Although cryonics is not feasible at present, technological breakthroughs in cryobiology may, in the future, decrease the amount of damage to levels that permit reversible cryopreservation. One of the goals of our research network is to discuss the ethical, medical, social and economic implications of these potential breakthroughs that would radically change our perceptions of life and death."

UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network

We are the UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network The UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network is a group of UK researchers who, together with international advisors, aim to advance research in cryopreservation and its applications.

Although we are a small group, we hope to promote academic and industrial activity on cryopreservation, and discuss its potential applications, including the idea of cryopreserving whole humans, commonly known as cryonics. We acknowledge that cryonics is a controversial topic, but like any unprovable approach we think its scientific discussion is necessary to permit its understanding by the public and by the wider scientific community, and it allows us to address many of the misunderstandings surrounding cryonics. We also think that cryopreservation, cryogenics and cryonics are fields with a huge potential impact on human medicine whose societal implications should be considered and debated.

We hope to attract and excite students and other researchers about cryobiology, contribute to knowledge exchange and help attract interest and funding to the field.

Comments

How old are you Reason? What do you think is a decent age to start thinking more about cryonics? 40 or 50ish? Honestly it's something I don't think about often because I'd rather not need cryonics (obviously) and the present state of the field leaves a lot to be desired, along with having some other reservations. Hopefully in 20-30 years it'll be much improved... Especially because I've heard people say cryonics is likely to be something that's last in, first out for the patients due to improved methods.

Posted by: Ham at November 10th, 2015 8:18 PM

Although, hopefully in 20-30 years people won't need cryonics unless they die from an accident. In which case cryonics wouldn't be much use anyway....

Posted by: Barbara T. at November 11th, 2015 12:35 PM

Would be nice, and I hope that's the case, Barbara. I just can't see us having gotten rid of all the major diseases that kill us by then though. I'd love to be wrong though!

Posted by: Ham at November 11th, 2015 3:21 PM

Hopefully 30 years timeframe is not overoptimistic.

Posted by: Martin S. at November 12th, 2015 12:37 AM

I don't think it's over-optimistic. Cancer should be under control within 15 years (think about what immunotherapy is already doing)and by 2045 I should hope that we can regenerate organs to a sufficient extent. And SENS'other components - senolytics, AGE breakers etc. - aren't really going to take that long to start delivering results according to the Methuselah foundation itself. This is not to say that no one will die, but provided that one has the money to spend on regular medical tourism, I can't see death not becoming the exception.

Posted by: Barbara T. at November 12th, 2015 8:52 AM

Ham, I'd say the fact that you don't think often about cryonics is precisely why it should matter even more to you.

Because if you ever need it, and the technology still leaves a lot to be desired, that's when you'll realise how important it would have been to back it up earlier.

I'm in your camp, though, as I have sizeable reservations about the continuum of personality in case of post-cryonics revival. Yet maybe we should lend cryonics more support...

Posted by: Nico at November 15th, 2015 2:38 PM

Hmmm,
Though I think cancer may be under control in 15 years, I think it will be only in the Lab because I see the FDA seriously slowing things down...

Posted by: bmack500 at November 16th, 2015 1:23 AM

PROPOSAL: RESEARCH INTO MAGNETIC RESONANCE FREEZING AS IT PERTAINS TO CRYOBIOLOGY, THE FREEZING OF HUMAN ORGANS FOR STORAGE, AND CRYONICS, THE FREEZING OF HUMANS FOR LATER REANIMATION.

The purpose of this letter is to convince people with resources to research and develop the existing technology of magnetic resonance freezing with the goal of freezing and storing human organs for future transplantation. I will also discuss the future ramifications of cryonics, the freezing of a human body in a state that will lead to future revival when cures are available for the diseases that people die from today. But, more importantly, current research into cell division has identified certain aging factors. As the cells divide and replace older cells the new replacement cells are not an exact copy, they have aged. The understanding and modification of these factors will lead to the cessation and reversal of aging. The current research in these fields is promising, ongoing, and will inevitably be successful. To take advantage of these future developments a person dying today has to be preserved in an undamaged state that makes future revival highly probable.

The present research being conducted by American cryobiologists into organ freezing
and cryonics is an approach employing the field of chemistry and has been unsuccessful. At the present time, after decades of research, these cryobiologists have been unable to freeze and preserve even small organs such as kidneys for storage and later re-implantation. This total failure is due to a single-minded approach to the use of cryoprotectants, antifreeze, to prevent the formation of damaging ice crystals which expand and damage the cells during the freezing process. The use of toxic cryopreservatives also results in long term destruction of tissue during storage and unfortunately larger objects require even higher more toxic concentrations

Recent scientific breakthroughs in stem cell research will result in human organs being cloned in the near future. Advances are rapid in the field of employing bio-scaffolding techniques and 3D printing. There will be a significant demand for a method of preserving these organs in a viable condition until they are required. Hearts, lungs, and kidneys from a person’s own cells will be grown and stored until required. No one wants a kidney or a heart contaminated with poisonous levels of antifreeze. If we are going to grow organs we had better learn how to store them. Current preservation methods are inadequate. Magnetic resonance freezing can solve this problem.

The cryobiologists themselves have exhibited a narrow minded prejudice when it comes to their own research. The pre-eminent organization for cryobiologists in the United States is the Society for Cryobiology. The Society prohibits any of their members from engaging in any research into cryonics, human preservation, under the threat of denial of membership and expulsion. They even have gone so far as to label the field of cryonics as a fraud. These actions restrict research into cryonics and are an admission, in my opinion, that the use of cryoprotectants has no future. I would go further and say that the use of cryoprotectants is also a dead end with respect to organ freezing and storage. Indeed, the British Medical Research Council declined continued financial support for their cryobiology unit. In 15 years there had been no significant progress toward organ cryopreservation...

The Immortalist Society, an organization dedicated to cryonics, is offering a $50,000 prize to anyone who can freeze a heart, kidney, liver, or pancreas that will permit storage in an undamaged state over a period of a hundred years. Said organs must be capable of re-implantation and function for a minimum period of nine months. The fact that this prize is even offered emphasizes the continuing failure of the cryoprotectant method,

MAGNETIC RESONANCE FREEZING

This alternate research is being carried on in Japan, Also known as the The Cells Alive System {CAS} it was developed and patented by Norio Owada,. His company currently sells food freezers from his company ABI in Chiba, Japan. CAS allows for the freezing of tissue without the formation of ice crystals by using magnetic fields that vibrate water to prevent freezing at low temperatures until the field is turned off and the tissue is quick frozen without ice crystallization There is an update filed with the US patent office in 2009 expanding the use of his invention to include living tissue. It is very important to accomplish vitrification, the freezing of tissue with no ice formation, without the use of toxic cryoprotectants.

Another US patent taken out by the University of Tokyo in 2010 lists Makoto Mihara as the inventor of the "Freezing Method'. It addresses again magnetic resonance technology and more specifically the freezing of organs "in a substantially non-destructive state'. They actually describe the freezing of two euthanized rats under anaesthesia. The brain tissue was subsequently analyzed:
"------although the structure of the brain tissue was destructed, approximately
10 times higher morphological preservation of brain cells was observed
in the tissue frozen at the magnetic field of 2,000 Hz according to the method
of the present invention.

At the time when the Cells Alive System was first discussed by people interested in cryobiology and cryonics there was a lot of excitement over a "game changer" in the field. I have found almost no research outside of Japan pertaining to this new approach. American cryobiologists have completely ignored the technology. The MRF process is not a chemistry based system but employs physics. No American papers on the subject, no freezers have been purchased for study. What I did find was a lot of discussion between those interested in MRF and those cryobiologists attached to the industry supporting the present technology of cryopreservatives. Recent Japanese research and patents begin to mention the preservation of bodies.

Researchers at the Hiroshimo University have created the world’s first commercial tooth bank using MRF technology. Teeth can be frozen and later re-implanted at any point in a person’s life. The nerves and ligaments suffered only minimal damage and resulted in a successful re-implantation of 87%

For a number of reasons, some political, some economic, the US cryobiologists dismiss this technology. Their reasons are not valid, due to the inadequate research necessary to come close to venturing any opinion on magnetic resonance freezing. . America is a country renowned for its research into innovative technologies and it is disturbing that so little has been done in this field. Unfortunately, since the research is in Japan, only a couple of English language scientific publications have referred to the MRF system The time has arrived to drop the failed chemical approach and invest money and research into the more promising area of physics.

Posted by: Bob Ives at February 5th, 2016 6:12 PM

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