by: Salma Kamiliya Haya (LEO CIMSA UWKS 2021-2022)
Cryonic Preservation on Humans?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, cryonics is “the process of storing a dead body by freezing it until science has advanced to such a degree that it is able to bring that person back to life”.
To preserve a human body, cryonics uses very low temperature at approximately -196º C. First, the body’s circulation will be stabilized with a heart-lung resuscitation. The body will be packed in ice (approximately -196ºC) and then transferred to a cryonic institute.
To freeze a human body without severely damaging the tissues, a certain process called “vitrification” needs to be done. Vitrification is an act to replace the blood with an antifreeze solution, in order to preserve the organs and allows the body to be frozen in a very low temperature without damaging the cells. Next, the body is put surrounded by dry ice, and then finally stored in a cryochamber.
Does it work?
Probably one of the most asked questions from people is, “Has cryopreservation ever worked on anyone before?”
Unfortunately there’s no case of a human’s whole body revival from a cryonic preservation yet. Although in 2004, an experiment was conducted on a rabbit to test if a previously frozen kidney can still be transplanted to another rabbit, and it was successful. This brings hope that in the future, bringing back a whole human body will be possible.
Is it safe?
A lot of scientists are still very skeptical about human cryopreservation. One of the concerning problems is that the chance of the brain’s survival is quite low, as we all know that the brain is a very complex and delicate organ and can be easily disturbed. Another problem is that, there’s a possibility that the body tissues can be fractured during the warming process due to thermal stress (Cui, Gao et al, 2002)
Ethical issues with cryonics
In this case, Beauchamp and Childress’s four bioethics principles, “Respect of Autonomy” can be implemented because cryopreservation is always done with the patient’s consent. Although, reviving a human body from a cryogenic freezing still feels very far from our current technology and it’s unlikely to happen in the next few decades, so for now it can be seen as a wager or gamble.
Human body revival from cryogenic freezing is still a very long way to go and needs more financial and research support. Nonetheless, it still leaves some hope that in the future, there will be a day where cryonics can be successfully done.
Cui, X., Labarrere, C., He, L., Cheng, S., Siderys, H., Kovacs, R. and Gao, D., 2002. Cryopreservation and microsurgical implantation of rabbit carotid arteries. Cell Preservation Technology, 1(2), pp.121-128. [https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/153834402320882629]