I suppose the question we have all asked ourselves is, Does cryogenization make sense with current scientific knowledge? Stories of people who want to be cryogenized after their death are the order of the day.
What is cryogenization?
Although there are antecedents in the literature, it seems that the first serious defense of cryogenization as a tool in order to take advantage of the medicine of the future can be found in ” The Prospect of Immortality“, a book by Robert Ettinger self-published in 1962. Since then, aupada by the urban legend that Walt Disney had been frozen, dry ice (or cryonics) has been part of popular culture.
And it doesn’t surprise me. It is an idea as simple as it is powerful. Cryogenization is based on freezing bodies in the hope that in the future we will be able to bring them back to life. It seems like a winning idea, but sadly, the two essentials (freezing and thawing) have very serious problems.
Can a body be frozen?
The first item (freezing bodies) may seem trivial, after all, we’ve been improving our freezing techniques for a long time. However, if we want to keep the structures intact, freezing becomes almost impossible.
Perhaps the best clue to this is that, to this day, we are not able to freeze even normal organs. This means that transplant operations continue to be carried out at full speed, with the extra risks that they entail, and even that many organs are lost in the process.
Today, organs (and the body in general) cannot be frozen because the water they contain, upon reaching the freezing point, increases in volume and destroys cellular structures and physiological mechanisms. That is, it makes them useless.
It is true that there is a cryogenization process (vitrification) that prevents the formation of ice by using an antifreeze gel at -196 degrees. The problem is that, for now, the most complex structures that we have been able to ‘vitrify’ have been embryonic organs of animals. So no, from what we know today, you can’t freeze a whole body without destroying its internal structures in the process.
And can it be revived later?
That’s the hope of cryogenization advocates. Everyone recognizes that today it is impossible both to freeze in good conditions and to reanimate complex structures. And, faced with this, they play the card of the future.
A famous manifesto by a group of scientists said that some resuscitation techniques such as “cell nano-repair, advanced computational techniques, detailed control of cell growth or tissue regeneration can be envisaged.” It may be, but this is not science, but science fiction. At least today.
In this sense, some of the claims of these scientists are reasonable and, for example, cryogenization, as an area of scientific study , is an acceptable discipline. But I’m afraid that when we talk about the problem of cryogenization, we are not talking about it.
What is true in the cryogenic movement?
That is, are we facing a plausible hope, a myth that does not harm anyone or a fraud ? The answer is not simple to the extent that, of course, we cannot predict the future. But it is true that there are certain things that make us doubt the (real) objectives of this movement.
At the end of the day, the large cryogenization institutes are not research centers dedicated to “cryonic science”, nor funds oriented to the technological development of the field; but structures dedicated, basically, to storing and preserving patients. That is to say, little more than groups that try to manage (and spread) hope in a future that we do not know if it will come.
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