When Will the Cryonics Industry Arrive at a Tipping Point in Growth?

Twenty years ago, there wasn't all that much of a difference between the public view of rejuvenation research and the cryonics field. Both were mocked by the mainstream media, marginal areas of human endeavor out on the fringes of society, supported by very little funding and a handful of dedicated supporters. Yet in both cases, compelling research existed to support the goals - of the treatment of aging, of reversible cryopreservation - and was largely ignored, or even actively derided by the academic mainstream, worried about appearances.

A great deal has changed since then for the field of rejuvenation research. In the early 2000s, patient advocates were delighted and surprised by the rare occasion on which a six or seven figure check arrived from a philanthropist. It didn't happen often! Twenty years down the line, however, and billions in funding from philanthropists, research institutions, and venture funds are now devoted to the development of in vivo epigenetic reprogramming as an approach to the treatment of aging. Similarly, hundreds of millions have been invested in the development of senolytic therapies to clear senescent cells. The treatment of aging as a medical condition and the goal of reversal of aging is no longer mocked, it is taken seriously, and both funding and the number of ventures are increasing at a rapid pace.

How did this change happen? It was a mix of networking, advocacy, philanthropy, and compelling advances in the science, such as the development of the first senolytics and many consequent studies showing rapid, profound rejuvenation in mice. A tipping point was reached after years of a long, slow grind of bootstrapping: a little more progress, a little more support, a little more progress. Once past that tipping point, matters moved much more rapidly year after year, and the acceleration continues today.

I recently attended the 50th anniversary conference for the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, celebrating the lengthy run of one of the oldest cryonics providers. A good deal of the discussion there orbited around the usual questions asked by a small and passionate community: how does the cryonics field become larger, more robust? How does it achieve greater funding and faster progress towards widespread use? Fifty years on from the very early days of improvised equipment, ad hoc science, and regulatory opposition, the field of cryonics now looks a lot like the field of rejuvenation biotechnology did fifteen or twenty years ago. Slow progress is underway, the organizations are far more professional, and a few visionary philanthropists are putting in six or seven figure checks occasionally. Compelling advances in research exist, and are not receiving the widespread attention that they deserve. New organizations for advocacy and research are being founded with small budgets and big visions. Some of the technology waiting in the wings, such as reversible vitrification of human organs, may help to reach the tipping point once they are fully realized and in widespread use.

Given this, I would not be surprised to see the cryonics field becoming much larger and more commercial, growing suddenly and rapidly, in the mid-to-late 2030s. By that time, I would expect that reversible vitrification of organs will be a going concern, radically changing the economics and viability of organ donation, and adopted as a core enabling technology by the new industry focused on manufacturing patient-matched organs to order. The widespread recognition of this technological capability will bring many more people to the realization that cryopreservation on clinical death is a viable approach to saving lives that would otherwise be lost, and matters will proceed ever more rapidly from there on.


My brain saw: Cryonics... tipping....

Don't tip the frozen guy please!

Posted by: Matt at June 14th, 2022 6:51 AM
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