What is cryonics and is it possible to find immortality in liquid nitrogen

It took more than half a century from the day when the body of the first person was crying in California, cooling it to a temperature below -70 degrees Celsius. This man became James Bedford, Professor of Psychology of the University of California. Bedford, incurably sick cancer, responded to the offer of California’s crying society, which promised to freeze the body of the first volunteer for free after his death. Since then, Bedford’s body stays in a cooled state in liquid nitrogen waiting, when science will develop so much that he can give him another chance to life.

For the past since then 51, the cryonics has developed significantly and even turned into a business, and the score of frozen people awaiting resurrection is already on many dozens.

Imagine that you have a favorite grandmother, which has recently feels quite bad. Grandma has a heavy hereditary disease caused by well-known doctors by a single mutation. And although almost everything is known about the mechanism of the emergence and development of the disease, our imperfect medicine is not able to treat it. And here, regularly accompanied on news about genomic editing, the DNA vaccines and the first success of the CRISPR / CAS9 system testing, you understand that even literally some 20-30 years, and your grandmother would have received a small course of DNA therapy , recover. However, as we agreed in initially, the grandmother feels bad today and no 20-30 years in the reserve you do not have.

Obviously, the most logical output from the situation would somehow win time, "frozen" course of the disease. For example, to freeze the grandmother in the literal sense – its body can be preserved to better times in liquid nitrogen with the calculation that in the future any alert, no matter how heavy it is, doctors will be able to cure. It is impossible to make freezing during life legally (and grandmother against), but today you can order, so that after the fact of death, the body has been saved for the future.

Companies that offer such services already have. And not only somewhere in the US, but also, for example, here, in our side, in the suburbs. The company "Cryerus", the repositories of which are located in Sergiev Posad, has been engaged in this for many years and for some 36 thousand dollars is ready to ensure the indefinite storage of the whole body. If it seems expensive to you, then for funny 15 thousand dollars you can save a separate head or brain. In addition, the company is ready to provide its customers with even installments or annual subscription. Agree, it would be strange to not use such an affordable service, especially since the only alternative in this case is death, funeral and final decay.

In the example with a hypothetical grandmother such a solution really seems most logical and simple. And many people encountered with such a dilemma are not hypothetically, but quite realistically, are solved for this step. Today their account is already on hundreds of man.

The problem is that not any solution that looks logical and simply, really right.

There are no guarantees and reverse – that attempts to preserve life at low temperatures are doomed to failure, but are engaged in similar, they say, only fraudsters. Life is much more complicated by this scheme, but in order to understand where the border between science and quantity passes in this story, a rather long story will be required.

Physicist Mitio Kaku is concise, but convincingly explains the problems of cryonics in its modern form.

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In the summer of 1931, Round Etter was 12 years old. It was the time of the peak of the Great Depression, and especially acutely, the economic decline was felt in Detroit, where Rob at that time lived with his family (by the way, followed by people from Russia). Like many of his peers, the boy was fond of science fiction, and its main source at the time were illustrated magazines like "amazing stories" (Amazing Stories), where such classics were printed as Jules Verne and Herbert Wells. And here, in the release of "amazing stories" for July 1931, Rob came across the story "Satellite Jameson", the author of which was important to the history of the genre, although the author-fictional Nile Jones is poorly known today.

Fabul story was as follows: someone Professor Jameson (something like Ilona Mask of the 1930s) sends his body to the orbit of the Earth, with the calculation that in space, at a temperature close to absolute zero, it will become an independent companion of our planet and will remain untouched for unlimited time (we have recently seen something similar, only with a mannequin instead of a real body).

In the story, it happens: after millions of years, the race of mechanical people-cyborgs finds the body of Jameson in orbit, his brain is reanimated, connect to a robotic "skeleton", and a former professor becomes a full member of the Society of Aliens from the Future.

The story made an indelible impression on the Ettinger, and the idea of ​​the possibility of perpetual storage of the body at a low temperature pursued him the rest of his life. A few years later, these impressions were notified about the works of the French biologist and philosopher Jean Rostan, who was one of the first to have learned to keep biomaterials viable at a minus temperature – the Frenchman worked with a frog sperm.

In 1947, under the impression of his achievements, the Etter wrote the story of The Penultimate Trump, in which the idea of ​​cryonics was first developed in the brightest details. According to Rob, this technology should be something like a unidirectional time machine, with the help of which it will be possible to deliver incurable patients into a bright future of high-tech medicine and to guarantee the indefinite longevity of man.

The story was published in the science fiction magazine Startling Stories, and after another one and a half decades, about the same ideas, but in non-finish-format, the ettinger outlined in his Opus Magnum, the book "The prospect of immortality".

The publication was followed by the struggle for recognition, the first supporters, the formation of a cryonical society and, finally, the first real freezing. Ettinger lived a rather long life, saw the takeoffs and the falls of the movement-based movement and died only in 2011, aged 92 years. As you can guess, his body was frozen in liquid nitrogen: the Father of the cryonics became the 106th Patient Cryonics Institute.

The founder of Alcor Mac Moore conducts a tour of its cryoral – the largest in the world today.

Ice Song without Flame

Ettinger’s ideas became the core of that movement, which today is called transgumanism. Cryonika in it is adjacent to cyborgization, propaganda of radical extension of life, fashionable now biohaking and other cyber. Depending on the personal temperament and the educational background of the transgumanists, these ideas can mutate in more or less radical forms: from quite realistic (like growing Farm organs of artificial organs) to absolutely illuminated (such as resettlement of consciousness in the Internet).

To tell the story of all this movement in the same text it would be impossible, and even the practical aspect of the cryonix herself, the amazing stories of the establishment of the Alcor and Cryerus companies, the stories and the impressions of their customers and critics, the scandals with the bankruptcy of the Alcor and the loss of cion cryopacitis. that entourage that accumulated around the cryonics in a few decades is described so in detail that the retelling reports would be meaningless.

So let’s leave the scandals and intrigues for a minute, we will take the existence of freezing services as a given and try to deal with how in principle the noble goals of cryonics are achievable, and the methods used by it are adequate to tasks. To do this, we will need to deepen how water, cells and live tissue behave with a decrease in temperature.

The main prerequisite for the existence of the cryonics is the fact that at temperatures close to absolute zero, chemical processes slow down sharply, and therefore, for live tissue, the time stops, which allows you to fix the state of the system to the moment when we decide what you need make.

The intelligence of such an approach was notified in (old good) Rule of Vant-Gooff, according to which "when the temperature decreases for every 10 degrees, the rate constant of a homogeneous elementary reaction is reduced by 2-4 times. For biological tissue, which, for example, was cooled from 37 degrees Celsius to the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, this means slowing all the processes at least 13 orders (223), and for enzymatic reactions that for biosystems are much more important, the drop in speed will be even more.

If we talk only about slowing the flow of reactions, specifically about the storage point, then there are no problems in the crying. This is recognized even her tick critics. Problems begin in all other places.

To achieve the temperature of liquid nitrogen, the body must first cool. In this case, many complex effects arise. For example, cell membranes lose their elasticity, and proteins designed to work at normal temperatures can begin denature. Both are important things that may not be reduced to preserve the viability of cells, but their influence is fading before the problem of ice crystals.

The detailed mechanism of water crystallization is not as simple as it may seem: it is well studied for the case of pure water (although there are 17 pieces alone in the ice in ice), however, in addition to H2O, in the tissues there are salts and proteins, sugar, and semi-permeable membranes, and a lot of other.

The cause of ice is the thermodynamic profitability of this process when the temperature drops below a certain threshold. The presence of salts, sugars and other substances in water can lower this threshold, but this dependence is also not easy: for example, salt NAcl can save water with liquid exactly to -21.4 degrees Celsius, after which further increases its concentration, on the contrary, leads to a sharp increase threshold up to room temperature.

It is also important to remember that in itself the "profitability of the process" does not mean its immediate implementation: thermodynamics manages only the direction of the reaction, but not its speed. And this speed, of course, itself depends on temperature.

On the graph you can see the freezing temperature of sodium chloride solution in water with different salt concentrations. At the bottom point, at a temperature of -21.4 degrees Celsius, the share of NaCl is 24 percent by weight. Concentration is given in molar units.

Pegg, D.E. The History and Principles of Cryopreservation, Seminprod Med., 2002

Take a specific example. What usually happens with the raspberry that you want to freeze for the winter in the freezer? Usually, externally, beautiful hard berries are obtained, which, after defrosting, turn into ancase of one degree or another uniformity. This happens because ice crystals are formed in the cells, which destroy the wholeness of membranes, and the contents flow into the intercellular space. If during the freezing in the cells there was a lot, then return the situation and save the cells there are no chance.

Some particularly radical supporters of cryonics believe that there may be nanorobot from a distant future to help, which will be able to turn damaged cells. Such fantasies are better reading in the original (for example, here The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics), constantly comparing statements by their authors with the abilities of really existing nanorobots (for example, such Cellular Cargo Delivery: Toward Assisted FERTILIZATION by Sperm-Carrying Micromotors), and draw conclusions yourself.

If the occurrence of Ice intracellular crystals is an instant sentence, then maybe this process can be prevented if you do a smooth frost procedure? Indeed, inside and extracellular space are very different from their volume and structure, so the occurrence of points of the nucleation of ice is significantly more likely to precisely in the intercellular space. With the initial cooling of the system (i.e. near the melting point), the rate of ice formation is limited precisely by the number of nucleation points, so at sufficiently slow cooling the ice is mostly occurring outside, and not inside the cells.

This is a potentially much more profitable situation, but there is one "but": the ice does not tolerate in its structure almost no impurities, so all salts and sugar intercellular medium are provided with crystallization to the liquid phase. Because of this, the osmotic pressure in the tissue increases in tens times and the cells are actually slow mummification in the brine (this is brightly shown in experiments, where instead of exposure to the cold cold, the cells were simply placed in a salt solution, the concentration of which was suitable for this temperature, – the result in both cases perfectly coincides).

The graph below is the proportion of dead erythrocytes (hemolysis level) in two experiments. Freeze was performed in the first, in the second – only incubation in the saline solution. In the latter case, the concentration of the solution corresponded to osmotic pressure in the liquid phase of the frozen blood obtained on the basis of calculations.

Pegg, D.E. The History and Principles of Cryopreservation, Seminprod Med., 2002

So, with slow cooling, the cells are no longer burst, as with fast, but on the contrary, dry. But it is unlikely that it will delight the supporters of the cryonics: it turns out that, adjusting the cooling rate, can only be controlled by the cause of cell death, and not eliminate it.

Below are graphs of the survival rate of cells of different types with different speeds of their cooling: it can be seen that even in the case of primitive single-celled yeast, the most optimal cooling rate leads to the fact that half the cells are irreversibly dying. This is not a problem for yeast, which have a single cell enough to restore strain. But what will happen if (putting titanic efforts) someone will succeed in achieving a similar level of cell survival in human crying? As a maximum, you will not have a corpse on your hands, but only a halfup.

In the following graph – the share of survivors after the cycle freezing / defrosting cells depending on the sample cooling rate. For all samples, both yeast and animal cell lines – there is only one optimal point of cooling rate, and survival in it is far from 100 percent.

Pegg, D.E. (1972) CryobioGy. In: Proceedings of the Fourth International Cryogenic Engineering Conference, Eindhoven. IPC Science and Technology Press, Guilford, UK

Time is up

It turns out that it is impossible to preserve cells alive in freezing, and the activities of all these cryonic companies are clean water fraud?

As for the second part of this statement, most scientists think about it. But the first part is actually incorrect, otherwise there would be no point in starting all this conversation.

Experiments on the preservation of living cells and tissues at low temperatures are conducted, and quite successful, but their real results are still very far from such ambitious tasks, which are cryonical companies for a long time ago.

What is cryonics and is it possible to find immortality in liquid nitrogen

One terminological difference should be made here. If the cryonics are the idea of ​​preserving human bodies to Ettenter for subsequent revival and treatment, the development of methods for preserving cells and tissues at a low temperature is called cryo-cooling (cryopreter), and the entire concomitant science – cryobiology. A significant part of specialists in this area is embryologists who constantly improve the methods of freezing and defrosting sperm, egg cells and even embryos and sex fabrics.

Scientists are constantly trying to adapt already existing cryoscope methods for more and more complex organs. Circuit vessels, cartilage and cornea have already been mastered, experiments with kidneys and ovaries are conducted on animals. But to transfer the results to the human body now – it’s like selling land on exoplates Systems SEVEN Temperate Terrestrial Planets Around The Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star Trappist-1: You can, of course, just do not be surprised if you are considered a crook.

How can I preserve the viability of cells during freezing, if, as we have already installed, nor high nor low cooling speed is able to prevent ice formation?

Nadezhda on the fact that it is still possible, lies behind the term "vitrification" (from the Latin root of Vitrum – "Glass").

Vitrification, or glazing, implies a substance in an unstable amorphous state, in which the formation of ice crystals at low temperatures is still thermodynamically profitable, but does not occur by kinetic reasons.

Shut-windows can be achieved if the growth rate of crystals does not sleep for increasing viscosity occurring when the temperature is reduced. The fact is that for the growth of crystals it is necessary to move water molecules to the crystal growth front, and the speed of this process depends on viscosity. If we add a substance to the solution that increases viscosity, the movement of molecules can be almost stopped, and the growth of crystals will stop with it. The system is silent, and without reaching a more energetically advantageous state.

Vitrification is not a magic wand, which allows you to make a magical way to bypass the prohibitions of physics. From the point of view of crying practice, she has its own "dark" parties. First, it requires very large, the simplests of the huge concentrations of cryoprotectants – substances aimed at increasing the viscosity of the medium. We are talking about such concentrations when the cloth is actually half consists of this "antifreeze" and only on the other half – from the water. And since almost any substances in such concentrations are toxic, scientists again face a dilemma: death of ice from ice or death from the fight against ice.

The graph below shows the behavior of the glycerol solution (historically first cryoprotectant) during slow cooling. The TM phase diagram indicates the water crystallization temperature at this glycerol concentration, TG – the temperature of the solution. The arrow shows the concentration of glycerol and the temperature of the liquid phase of the system.

CryopReservation and Freeze-Drying Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology V. 1257

It can be seen that the initial cooling leads to an unstable state, when the ice crystals have not yet been formed and the concentration of glycerin in the remaining solution is constant. Then the concentration begins to grow, in accuracy following Tm until at some point, the cooling rate is not ahead of the growth rate of crystals and the system does not overcome the TG vitrification threshold. For greater cooling speed, this inflection happens before.

Secondly, a little successfully achieved the temperature of the vitrification – the point where the cloth is actually turning into a glass.

It is also necessary to come up with how from this state is returned back to room temperature.

The problem is that when cooling, movement down through the glazing threshold, the total amount of ice is limited to the growth rate of already existing crystals, but at the same time new nucleation centers are avalanche. When moving in the opposite direction, then heating, these centers already exist, and the growth rate of crystals is accelerated with each degree up to the melting point.

All this leads to the fact that the critical heating rate for vitrified tissues is always several orders (sometimes hundreds of thousands of times) exceeds the critical cooling rate. Therefore, recently, great attention in this area is given to innovative heating methods, and not cooling at all. Among the possible Improved Tissue CryopReservation using Inductive Heating Of Magnetic Nanoparticles – use of radio emission or induction heating of ferromagnetic particles pre-entered.

The real state of affairs in this area best describes the example of the work of Greg Fahi – one of the most famous specialists in cereals (which, how much can be judged, in general, quite favorably refers to the ideas of transgumanism, which is rare for biologists). Fahi Group for several years trying to learn to freeze and defrost kidney rabbits in such a way that they keep their physiological function.

The purpose of this work is understandable: according to statistics, up to 60 percent of the organs that can be used during transplantation, end their lives in the trash can – and this is despite the fact that many thousands of people are in the bodies. It is estimated that if half of these organs were used for their intended purpose, there would be a phenomenon for transplantation for a couple of years.

The problem is that even in the cooled state the maximum time of the viability of donor organs is measured by hours: 36 hours for longer than long-lived kidneys and 4 hours for the heart and lungs. During this time it is very difficult to find the right recipient and quickly organize a transplant operation. The creation of banks of frozen organs could solve this problem, but the technical complexity of this problem has not yet been overcome. For example, according to Fakhi, even a small change in the cooling protocol may have dramatic consequences for the result, which makes the selection of parameters for each organ very complex.

A few years ago, the group was able to reduce the formation of ice when kidney than kidney rabbit up to 6 percent of the body mass and prove its viability. But even such, it seems to be a small amount of ice destroys the blood system of the organ and reduces practical benefits from transplantation. It is only one and a half times to increase the perfusion time of the organ, and the formation of crystals will stop – but the kidney cells are sharply ceased to withstand the toxic effects of cryoprotectants and perished.

It turns out that even in the case of one particular body between life and death, there are some extra 15 minutes of perfusion, some subtleties of the procedure. Can imagine how thin, complex and long-term optimization would take if we tried to do the same with the body of a person entirely. It is not surprising that commercial companies that are engaged in cryonics prefer such conversations about nanorobids and inevitable technological singularity.


Of course, if you look at the problem of cryonics wider, then nothing is fundamentally impossible in it. Skirts, beetles, flat-mells, Siberian charcoles and many frogs, being familiar with the history of the issue, only laugh at human problems: they have long learned to withstand deep freezing without any significant consequences. Some of them for this independently synthesize in their body cryoprotectants like glycerol or glucose, others generally decided the problem of ice radically – almost completely getting rid of the water in their body.

But what can you do – a person is not a slugger. Fortunately, we have a brain, which means that at some point due to the development of technologies and progress of cryobiology, we still be able to get closer to its brilliant perfection.

Judging by the pace of real achievements, now the living people of this bright future will not yet find.

And while we are moving in this direction, it is best to be guided by the words of the popularizer of science, the founder of the Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer, said just about crying: "The problem in the study of the boundaries of science opportunities is reduced to the search for equilibrium between, on the one hand, the openness of the new one , right up to the reception of radical ideas, and on the other hand, restrictions on this openness so that your brain does not fall and not lost finally. ".

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