Blog> Why choose cryopreservation

  • Current status of the situation
  • The price of cryopreservation
  • Death is not yet reversible

Current status of the situation

When reading or hearing about the word cryopreservation, the first thing that crosses our mind is: Walt Disney.  Nothing could be further from the truth. When he died of lung cancer in 1966, the body of Walt Disney was not frozen waiting to be revived as has been said many times and most of society believes, but was cremated and his ashes remain in a Pantheon at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery located in Los Angeles, United States.

Although this case is a legend, the truth is that  there are people in this state, with the conviction and idea (before dying) that in the future, thanks to advances in science and technology, they could return to the lifetime.  A fact that today can not be demonstrated. 

“From the scientific point of view there is no evidence. It is important to make this aspect very clear to avoid false expectations or illusions »

Felipe Debasa, professor at the Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid) who investigates the evolution of the new social sciences and transversal knowledge.

In Spain there is no company that keeps deceased human bodies. CeCryon, based in Valencia, was created three years ago for that purpose, but, for now, they have not achieved their goal. “The cryopreservation of adults, which is already a reality in other countries, unfortunately is not yet implemented in Spain,” laments Albert Estrada, medical director of the center, who points to both technical, legal and financial obstacles.

“Without legal security it is difficult to attract investors; without investments, scientific development is impossible; without research there are no results; without them it is difficult to convince the masses and without social support, it costs to change the laws “, summarizes the doctor.

The price of cryopreservation

Spaniards who want to keep their body have to go to countries like the United States, where this practice is regulated, which in Spain is not yet legal. They can do it through Alcor or Cryonics institute.

For about 170,000 euros, you can keep frozen, and for about 70,000 euros, preserve only your brain.  In the case of being a Spanish citizen or another State, you must add 10% in expenses.

alcor scottsdale foundation
alcor foundation

We point out that  no one has revived after this procedure  and that  only bodies can be preserved once they are legally dead.  Since 1967 they already have 150 bodies or brains cryopreserved, including James Bedford , the first frozen human being.

The reasons for making this decision are varied. “The possibility of seeing the future, lengthening life or space travel,” says Marji Klima, executive assistant at Alcor. In Spain, if a person decides that, after his legal death, he wants his body to remain that way, he must “record his will in the document of anticipated wills or prior instructions, also known as a living will,” says Debasa .

Death is not yet reversible

The process of cryopreservation consists in reducing the body temperature to temperatures close to absolute zero (around -190ºC) so that the biological activity stops completely and tissues do not deteriorate.

According to Estrada, chief physician at iCryonic World Lab,  the difficulty lies in reaching these extreme temperatures without causing irreversible damage to the cooling process. “The process has two faces: cool first and heat later to reverse it. At this point in human technological development we are not yet able to do both without causing irreversible injuries, but we are confident that, in the future, scientific advances will allow us to reverse the process effectively. “

These Odyssey capsules do not consume electrical energy and liquid nitrogen is added periodically to replace the amount that evaporates.

The vitrification is a very fast cooling that prevents the molecular reorganization in the form of crystals, that is to say, that avoids the formation of ice. “After completing this process,  the body is preserved in liquid nitrogen , in capsules conveniently isolated and monitored,” explains the specialist.

To update the latest research on cryopreservation, longevity and extension of life, a few weeks ago the first international summit of this kind was held in Spain. The objective, according to the surgeon Javier Cabo, president of the scientific committee of the congress, was that lines of cooperation between the scientific and technological areas were born.

Although as a Cape surgeon he has cryopreserved more than 500 hearts to perform after cardiac homografts, the doctor differentiates between freezing an organ and the whole body put, that in the latter case, there is no scientific evidence to support its recovery. Fabric to fabric is easier. Embryos, oocytes, sperm, ovarian cortex, cardiovascular grafts or cartilage are some of the human tissues that, today, are preserved in temperatures close to absolute zero and are used later.

In a study published in Nature Biotechnology, more than forty researchers are committed to improving preservation techniques in order to conserve organs that are going to be transplanted, which would increase the rate of operations and decrease the mortality of patients who die before receiving them. Its main author is Gregory M. Fahy, a pioneer in the vitrification and preservation of rabbit kidneys.

In his opinion, for the recovery of frozen bodies to be a reality it will take decades, a lot of investment and a lot of research. “The best way could be through international space agencies, which could pool their resources for a long-term project like this,” says Fahy, vice president of 21st Century Medicine (USA). Although  some of the cryopreserved people dreamed that their frozen bodies would one day travel to space and revive in other planets , it is something unrealizable today. What has been stated is that, in trips to deep space of long duration, the crew members undergo life in a kind of hibernation to awaken when they are close to the objective of the mission. The supergusano that resuscitatesIn nature there is a tiny creature that can freeze alive and resuscitate with enough guarantees. It is the C. elegans worm  . Its millimeter length makes it the ideal animal because cooling and reheating without producing ice a sample of one millimeter is easy, according to Daniel Barranco, a researcher at the University of Seville.

The Cryobiotech team of which it was part patented an ultrafast cooling method that allows cryopreservation of the nematode even in adult stage, with a higher survival rate than the traditional technique.

The main difference with the human body is volume. “Cryopreservation is affected by size and complexity,” says Fahy. While the process of removing the heat from a human body and returning it afterwards so that it overheats is slow, in the worm it is very fast. “In addition, human organs are much more complicated than those of  C. elegans  and are more easily damaged,” he adds. Long-lived mice and laboratory chimeras Apart from cryopreservation,  many scientists are investigating why we age and what measures to take to extend the lifetime. This is the case of María A. Blasco, director of the National Center for Oncological Research (CNIO). The scientist has spent years studying the telomeres (located at the ends of chromosomes) and telomerase (an enzyme that allows the lengthening of telomeres).

“If we avoid or delay the shortening of telomeres, we can delay aging and associated diseases , ” he said in his speech at the congress. Different experiments with mice have shown that activating their telomerase has a positive effect on diseases such as cancer or pulmonary fibrosis, related to aging.

The mouse embryo is used for biomedical purposes. Izpisúa Belmonte Lab ?? Salk Inst.

Juan Carlos Izpisúa, researcher at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies (United States), also tries to fight against the deterioration of the organism but, where appropriate, with the regeneration of organs and tissues. The biochemist, who also participated in the congress, gave as examples the chimeras, “something customary to the Mediterranean culture.” These fantastic animals, formed by organs of different beings, are becoming more common in laboratories like yours.

Survive with spare parts

Although they have achieved that rat cells are integrated into a mouse embryo and the chimeric animal survives, he admits that achieving the same result with other living beings is more difficult. The scientist and his team managed to insert human stem cells into pig embryos, an important step but still far from its final goal: to develop organs and tissues to use in transplants.

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