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New Era of Cryonics Research

New Era of Cryonics Research

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Published by advancedatheist
A description of a new laboratory in Portland, Oregon, to study and improve the techniques of brain cryopreservation (cryonics).
A description of a new laboratory in Portland, Oregon, to study and improve the techniques of brain cryopreservation (cryonics).

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Published by: advancedatheist on Apr 01, 2009
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06/16/2009

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 By Aschwin de Wolf In December 2007 Chana de Wolf and I were invited to the Cryonics Institute to observe and document Dr. Yuri Pi
 
Unpacking theatomic absorption spectrophotometer that will be used in the future to do viability studies. to do viability studies.Puchugin’s hippo-campal brain slice model to ensure that these skills would not be lost to cryonics researchers when Yuri would return to Russia. Ourvisit turned out to be the beginning of a challenging but rewarding journey to secure funding and lab space in order to create a sus-tainable cryonics research program.In mid-2008 a generous CI member, Alan Mole, stepped forward to make $10,000 available for research into improved subzerocooling techniques. This offer presented the first credible indication that a modest cryonics research program might become a realpossibility. In the following months we exchanged a series of emails with Cryonics Institute President Ben Best and Immortalist So-ciety Director York Porter discussing the feasibility and details of such a research program.Another encouraging sign was the prospect of Yuri’s research equipment becoming available for our research. This not only elimi-nated a sizeable chunk of lab expenses, it also presented us with the opportunity to continue the hippocampal brain slice work with-out the need to engage in a time and money consuming effort to determine and acquire the necessary equipment and supplies.An effort was made to generate a research proposal and budget for approval at the September 2008 meeting of the Immortalist Soci-ety. As can be expected, this required some careful thinking, and, to be fair, some degree of guesswork. That month I found myself giving a brief presentation at the annual general meeting of the Cryonics Institute about our research plans. At that same event abudget and research proposal was approved and Yuri’s equipment was prepared for shipping to Oregon. But one of the most excitingannouncements I was able to make was that CI Director Jordan Sparks resolved our foremost remaining challenge by securing us labspace. This development transformed our research plans from “difficult” to “realistic.”While the legal details were worked out in late 2008, the lab space was equipped with furniture and research supplies in anticipationof the arrival of Yuri’s equipment. During December 2008 this equipment was installed, supplies were unpacked, cleaned, sorted andshelved, and additional equipment and supplies were purchased, some of them with financial assistance from Jordan Sparks. Afterdoing some equipment testing and preliminary experiments in late December 2008, our first experiments commenced in January
A New Era of Cryonics Research
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One corner of the lab before most of the supplies and glass-ware were unpacked. Beneath the bench one can see the initialstart of an icebath / thumper combination for cryonics case-work in Oregon.
 
2009.Three important considerations informed our research objectives: 1. Cryonics procedures and technologies will be investigatedunder
realistic
conditions. 2. Research models themselves will be the object of experimentation to determine the most fruitful re-search directions. 3. Basic research skills and methods must be solidified before engaging in complicated research designs. Let usbriefly look at these points.One problematic aspect of contemporary cryonics is that the technologies and protocols that are used mostly reflect research that wasdone under “ideal” conditions. Unfortunately, cryonics patients are not preserved under ideal circumstances, including those whoreceive standby and stabilization. It should not be assumed that technologies that are superior in healthy organs will be superior incryonics patients. Cryonics researchers Mike Darwin and Jerry Leaf did some pioneering work in cryopreservation of ischemicbrains in the 1980s, but such efforts have not produced a comprehensive program of what we would like to call “Evidence BasedCryonics.”There are a number of research models available to investigate cryonics procedures. In our experience there is a risk to commit one-self at an early stage to a single model. One scenario in particular we would like to avoid is committing ourselves to a very demand-ing and expensive research model only to realize years later that the costs of the model do not outweigh the benefits, or worse, thatthe expectations for the model were in error. To avoid such a scenario we have decided to put several models to the test in order toidentify the models that will give us the most benefits in terms of reliable research results and practical applications.A related issue that is important to us is not to step up the complexity of the model without good evidence based reasons to do so.This not only has advantages in terms of time, but also helps keep costs under control. Good cryonics research does not necessarilyneed to be very expensive, and a combination of elegant models and creative thinking can produce useful results. Our research objec-tives for this year are designed to work towards a series of low subzero temperature cooling experiments, but we have designed themin such a manner that the journey itself will generate useful information pertaining to existing cryonics procedures.At this point a specific example is helpful. When the Cryonics Institute made its formula and protocol for VM-1 available to the gen-eral public, some concerns were raised about the fact that cryonics patients were exposed to a higher concentration (70%) of thisvitrification agent then was validated in Pichugin’s research. One observer feared that if such concentrations were introduced toischemic patients at non-ideal (warmer) temperatures, red blood cells could be acutely destroyed. This would not necessarily meanthat the toxicity of VM-1 would substantially harm brain tissue, but it would be a cause for great concern.In January 2009 we used a sheep red blood cell model to investigate these concerns. We exposed red blood cells to VM-1 at differenttemperature profiles and found that even atroom temperature no massive hemolysis wasobserved. Although these observations consti-tute just one step towards investigating VM-1under realistic cryonics conditions, the fearsthat initiated these experiments do not seem tobe warranted. In the future we intend to useother models to investigate VM-1 under real-istic conditions including, but not limited to,perfusion of ischemic brains and hippocampalbrain slice work.Since we started we have received tremendoussupport from a number of people. In particularwe would like to thank Alan Mole, Ben Best,York Porter, David Ettinger, Mark Plus, andThe Institute for Neural Cryobiology for theircontributions to making our research possible.We are especially grateful to Jordan Sparksand his people for their continuous supportand dedication.
Unpacking the atomic absorption spectrophotometer that will be used inthe future to do viability studies.
24

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