The term ‘Cryonics’ floated in  British and Irish media last week after a 14 year old British girl who died after a terminal cancer battle won the right to have her body frozen in an unprecedented ruling by the High Court.  According to the Journal.ie the 14 years old had written to a judge explaining she wanted a chance to “live longer” after suffering from a rare form of cancer. She had researched and decided to undergo ‘Cryonics’ .

Cryonics is the practice of preserving human bodies in extremely cold temperatures, so cold that a person  beyond help by today’s medicines might be preserved for decades or even centuries with the hope they will be brought back to life with the help of future medical treatments.

The first person to be cryogenically  frozen was a 73-years old psychologist, Dr James Bedford in 1967 whose body is still reportedly in good condition at Alcor Life Extension Foundation. The idea of Cryonics was originated with a book by Robert Ettinger known as “The Prospect of Immortality,” which argued that a person frozen at the exact moment of death could later be brought back to life.

Today there are dozens of  companies especially in the United States and Russia freezing human bodies with the hope of bringing them back to life.  The Alcor Life Extension Foundation is the world leader in cryonics, cryonics research, and cryonics technology according to the alcor.org and Financial Times.  Alcor is a non profit organisation  founded in 1972 and based in Arizona.

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation building in Arizona

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation building in Arizona. Image Credit: Crissy (flickr)

At alcor.org, Alcor urges the public to become a member, who would have full legal and financial arrangements in effect for cryopreservation with Alcor. Currently Alcor charges $80,000 for neurocryopreservation and $200,000 for whole body cryopreservation for the members.  Up until today Alcor has 148 cryopreserved patients frozen, with the hopes of bringing them to life.

KryoRus is a Russian and  the third largest Cryorics company in the world which unlike Alcor, takes a socialist approach and preserves human bodies in giant communal vacuum flasks. Thus, at KryoRus, cryopreservation costs $36,000 for full body and $12,000 just for a head.

Cryopreservation process starts after the patient is pronounced legally dead.  Within next few hours the body is cooled to bring down the body temperature. Over several hours the patient’s blood is replaced with a cryoprotectant, a must-needed chemical antifreeze that protects tissue from freezing damage. Then the body is kept frozen at a temperature of  -196˚C using nitrogen gas over the course of several days.

Notable persons to be cryoprotected include head of US baseball star who is frozen at  -196˚C in a state-of -are steel thermos in Arizona. Paypal founder Peter Thiel and computer scientist Kurzweil are book to be crypprotected, while famous news anchor Larry King is booked to be cryopreserved.

But popular theoretical physicist and futurist Micho Kaku has openly denied the revival of human beings in the future frozen at such extreme temperature. In a You Tube video Kaku says that when a human body is frozen ice crystals start forming inside the cells which rupture the cells when they expand. “Freeing the human body seems to work superficially, but if you look human tissue under microscope there are massive tearing and disruptions of cell wall.”

While president of Alcor Max More was not happy with what Mizo Kaku claimed. In another You Tube video More insists that Kaku’s claims are just bogus.,”Cells are not like bottles, but they are like bags. Although the ice would expand, but only by 9 percent in volume and 3 percent in length which is biologically insignificant. There are certain tissues which are frozen and used successfully like heart valves, skin, sperm, and embryos.”

Science and technology has made impossible things possible. Scientists are in a quest to discover the life after death, make human live much longer, and obviously Cryonics. We are yet to see how far Science could go to transcend the Death.