Profile: Aschwin de Wolf

Aschwin de Wolf in Portland’s industrial district. 

By Nicole Weinstock

If you were an avid puzzler or a member of Facebook in 2014, then you may recall the trending release of Clemens Habicht’s “1,000 colors” jigsaw puzzle. An ode to CMYK printing, it showcases the spectrum of four inks used in this industry standard: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The puzzle allots one piece for every tone in the color gamut, encouraging a more intuitive approach to assembly than most. While “1,000 colors” is arguably quite bold and synergistic in concept and presentation, it also exudes a level of nuance and singularity, calculation, and detail. It is the perfect introduction to New York-based cryonics advocate and prominent cryonics leader, Aschwin de Wolf.

Though Aschwin’s involvement in the field dates back to the early 2000s, he is perhaps best known for his position as CEO of Advanced Neural Biosciences (ANB), which he co-founded in Portland, Oregon despite initial skepticism about its location. In 2019 he turned heads once more as he led the charge to launch a second ANB office focused on theoretical research in one of the original hot spots of cryonics: New York City. Aschwin  was also the co-founder of the nonprofit Institute for Evidence-Based Cryonics, and is editor of the quarterly Cryonics magazine published by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. He founded and regularly contributes to the online platform Biostasis, and frequently serves as cryonics consultant and advisor for domestic and global initiatives.

Aschwin smiles with a glass of wine in the window of a Fifth Avenue hotel overlooking the historic main branch of the New York public library in midtown.

As ambitious as he is, work-life balance is an important value in Aschwin’s life and perhaps a vestige of his European roots. He actively cultivates many niche interests ranging from independent niche perfumes to Japanese avant-garde music. Aschwin maintains a blog focused on natural wines and lambic, organizes fermentation meetups, and keeps a vigilant eye for the next best wild game burger. He also pursues unique personal challenges like a week-long water fast or a 100,000 steps-in-a-day Fitbit challenge (equivalent to 50 miles). As you will come to find, the relationship between time and an insatiable curiosity strongly motivates his commitment to cryonics, the future, and life at large.

Art Smart

Aschwin warms his hands around a cup of Genmaicha to combat the damp cold of a wintry day. Staring at his brown rice green tea, he admits, “One thing that I hear a lot is, ‘You know so much about so many things. Where do you find the time?’” As a self-identified introvert, Aschwin enjoys stretches of solitude, and suspects that this is not unrelated. He adds, “That period on my own, of recovery, is also a period where I can read a lot, learn a lot.”

His home has no shortage of supporting evidence. At the de Wolf residence, you can expect the sights and sounds of a life spent diving deep into art, film, music, and wine. You are immediately greeted by the authentic tones of vinyl. Maybe you recognize the soft mezzo-soprano of the late “Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer, or perhaps you hear a rare compilation of sound recordings from non-operational trains. Indeed, Aschwin’s collection of 600-plus records, some of which are stacked in repurposed wine crates—a subtle hint at another de Wolf passion—provide quite a number of musical possibilities for the newcomer.

Aschwin’s fascination with atonal and experimental music is partly rooted in a childhood spent largely at his grandmother’s home. Her neighborhood was simple and small, which allowed its other seemingly mundane characteristics to acquire greater value and a comforting familiarity. Aschwin recalls, “Just hearing manufacturing sounds, trucks or white noise…A lot of that sound is not something that I endure. It’s literally very pleasant for me.”

Just as his musical taste reflects a contemporary leaning, so too does the design of his home. Reminiscent of a gallery, Aschwin’s clean white walls are adorned with a spectrum of framed art throughout. An album poster from New York underground rapper, Roc Marciano, hangs next to that of Los Angeles-based chillwave singer-songwriter, Nite Jewel. Faye Dunaway’s hauntingly shadowed face from an original 1970’s movie poster for the Eyes of Laura Mars stares down a series of photographs from childhood. They are close-ups of textures and shapes from his grandmother’s attic and some of the earliest evidence of his attraction to abstract art. Then there is the poster for the small but mighty Belgian lambic brewer, Cantillon. Did I mention that Aschwin wrote an internationally-respected blog about lambics and wild ales for a decade?

One of 3 images in “Druivenstraat,” a collaborative series of artworks (2015) by Aschwin de Wolf and Avantika Bawa. The photos were taken in the attic of the former home of the late Eva van Oosten, Aschwin’s grandmother, at Druivenstraat 1, Leiden in 2014.

An audiophile and art lover, Aschwin is also quite the film buff. In an exercise to define his movie taste more sharply, he reduced his movie display to reveal only his favorite twenty-five films. From Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964) to The French Connection (1971) to Dawn of the Dead (1978), his all-time favorite movie, Aschwin’s collection reflects a continuing enthusiasm for many of the themes that drew him to film as a teenager: horror, post-apocalyptic science fiction, and slasher and zombie movies from the late 70s and early 80s. He observes, “This interest persists today but I have come to recognize that I was less interested in the blood and gore than in cinematography, atmosphere, and survivalist elements in those films.”

While Aschwin’s movie collection is small but epic, so too is his library. Well, “library” might be a strong word, but the two industrial chic glass and steel bookcases that hold his carefully curated library make for quite an eye-catching marriage. Titles like W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, Reggie Oliver’s The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini, Damian Murphy’s The Imperishable Sacraments, and DeLio’s The Music of Morton Feldman peek out from behind glass panes. Fiction and nonfiction are separated, and some books are part of print runs that were capped at a couple hundred copies. They may bear any one of a number of artisan touches: high quality paper, elegant bindings, or uniquely colored ink. “I don’t feel like I collect expensive books or even necessarily rare books,” says Aschwin. He continues, “If something’s beautiful and appealing and you see it made with great care and passion, then it’s worth owning.”

Though Aschwin’s paperback collection has certainly diminished since childhood, the caliber and themes of his literary preferences have not in large part. But then again, this is largely because these preferences were never particularly juvenile to begin with. “I kind of skipped this ‘young adult’ period [growing up],” he explains. He continues, “When I was able to read, I started reading things like Edgar Allen Poe, and the great novelists.” Indeed, the Hardy Boys and any other literary teen posse catalogued with the abbreviation “YA” had no place in Aschwin’s childhood.

Dutch Roots

His name may have thrown you for a loop— “Ashvin” is a popular Hindu name—but Aschwin was born and raised in the land of the wooden shoes. His favorite color happens to be orange, the most historically and culturally relevant color in the Netherlands, but he is quick to credit coincidence in this matter.

Aschwin’s grandmother cradles her grandson, the start of what would become a very close relationship.

Aschwin grew up in the city of Leiden in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. It is the birthplace of Rembrandt and home to the oldest university in the country. The Leiden Observatory has also been a significant center for astronomical study since the 1800s. It is just a stone’s throw from the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, the oldest botanical garden in the country. The city’s continued reverence for both the arts and sciences makes it a rather fitting backdrop for someone like Aschwin.

An “active child,” Aschwin notes with a smirk, he kept an unofficial residence at his grandparents’ home growing up. He preferred the wear and tear of their more aged residential and light-industrial neighborhood. Even more so, he enjoyed spending time with his grandmother, Eva, who was quick to knit him (black) sweaters or bake him Dutch pancakes. Though she has since passed, Aschwin still thinks of her as his greatest life example. He describes her as “one of the most supporting, selfless, and tolerant persons I have ever met.  She was good-natured, generous, and never pushed or demanded anything. This is something many people strive for but to her it was second nature.”

Aschwin’s closest friendships were nurtured inside and outside of class, and in particular, through his favorite sport: basketball. He played on teams until university and sponsors season tickets to the Leiden basketball team for his parents every year. Aschwin has also been a loyal season ticket holder for the Portland Trail Blazers since 2012. In addition to playing basketball, he was also a keen (video) gamer, utilizing the legendary 8-bit Commodore 64 home computer and a cassette player on a “healthy” diet of hamburgers and coke. While kombucha has replaced coke, and gourmet burgers are only consumed sporadically, he still has a strong interest in atmospheric adventure games like Myst or Gabriel Knight.

Aschwin as a boy with his parents, Matthijs and Neeltje, at Europe’s biggest playground, Linnaeushof, in 1979.

Though Leiden is known for its university, Aschwin chose to attend the University of Amsterdam. At the time, the Dutch university system was almost exclusively based on test scores, rather than attendance, participation, or homework. These were favorable conditions for a self-motivated and intelligent introvert like Aschwin. It freed up quite a bit of time for him to hone other curiosities: he volunteered at a local experimental music store, cultivated an interest in designer clothing, and in general, became well-acquainted with the city and its many characters. He even lived in a small apartment in the Red-Light District for some time.

Aschwin specialized in Public Administration within the political science department. It was an interesting time to pursue social science, he explains, as the fall of the Berlin wall was still relatively recent, and some professors were still recovering from their 1960’s Marxism. His ever-increasing interest in economics heavily influenced his eventual master’s thesis, which critically reviewed orthodox theories of market failure. It was dense and theoretical, and his assessors had to pull a professor from the school of economics to ensure its fair evaluation.

Discovering Cryonics

As Aschwin closed in on graduation, he discovered that his passions and preferences were a mismatch in the working world. He explains, “I was interested in politics, but I did not want to become a politician or public official. I was interested in philosophy and economics, but I disliked academic culture.” The professional unknown, combined with a growing dissatisfaction with Amsterdam and Dutch culture, led him to join his then-partner in an overseas move to the U.S. Though he had intended to leave his studies incomplete—he was one class short of his Master’s degree—he quickly reversed his decision in deference to his parents. He flew back to the Netherlands a few times to complete his remaining exams and receive his degree.

After settling down in Arlington, Virginia, Aschwin also spent a couple months in Geneva, Switzerland where he experienced a life-changing medical scare. The cause turned out to be something trivial, but the episode spurred deeper thought on death and aging. After putting finger to keyboard, he ran across cryonics, something he had only ever observed in passing on libertarian websites. Aschwin recalls, “…I found the technical literature quite persuasive, as far as I could understand it, and the associated topics appealed to my growing interest in the natural sciences and disillusion with the social sciences.” Shortly after returning to the U.S., he signed up as a member with Alcor at its Fifth Annual Conference on Extreme Life Extension. It was November of 2002.

From that point onward, Aschwin studied cryobiology and the biomedical sciences in great earnest. His enthusiasm garnered the attention of Charles Platt at the Florida-based cryopreservation research company, Suspended Animation (SA). SA offered him a part-time position and he swiftly moved to West Palm Beach. Over time, he earned full-time employment there, covering a variety of needs ranging from bookkeeping to technical writing to management.

In 2007, Aschwin moved to Phoenix for a year where he began to consult and expand his cryonics writing. He soon discovered that the heat strayed too far from his overcast preferences…But a little city named Portland, Oregon had just the right weather, not to mention many of the elements he missed most from Europe: bike-friendly streets, and great public transit, craft beer, and a music scene that birthed personal favorites such as Grouper, Glass Candy, and The Chromatics. In 2008, he moved to the Rose City, with plans to co-found a new cryonics research company with Chana Phaedra.

Advanced Neural Biosciences

Though cryonics has a strong foundation on the West Coast, the greatest concentration of infrastructure and membership therein has traditionally come from major metropolitan areas in California. The decision to take a chance in Portland raised some eyebrows, but persistence combined with some modest donations paved the way for success. Aschwin and Chana received a generous monetary donation from Cryonics Institute member Alan Mole, a research equipment donation from the Cryonics Institute (later followed by Alcor), and free lab space from Oregon Cryonics owner, Jordan Sparks. In 2008, they incorporated their research company, Advanced Neural Biosciences, Inc (ANB).

ANB’s earliest experiments studied the effects of ischemia on cryopreservation outcome. Though he and Chana both derived a great sense of fulfillment from their work, the first couple of years were tough and demanding. Aschwin recalls how “…we were doing research with little or no compensation on the weekends in addition to our other jobs and contract writing.” For him, that included his work as editor of Cryonics Magazine. After five years however, the winds shifted. They finally received enough support from Alcor and the Life Extension Foundation to sustain their own dedicated research space in Portland. With that upgrade, their experiments became more advanced. They focused on optimizing cryoprotectants for the brain and even reversible whole body biopreservation. 

Aschwin and Chana revealed this new company logo, designed by Avantika Bawa, when they officially moved to their current Portland research space.

In ANB’s eleventh year, Aschwin took another leap of faith, moving to New York City to launch a second ANB branch focused on theoretical and computationally-driven research. The initial reaction of industry friends and colleagues was not unlike the response to his Portland move from years before. Why not the Bay area? Why not LA?

While most viewed an established infrastructure, a vibrant tech community, and a powerful base of cryonicists as attractions, Aschwin was far more intrigued by the challenge of expanding ANB in a place with great untapped potential. Unbeknownst to many, New York was once home to some of the earliest cryonicists many decades ago, and while the state may not have any established cryonics research or storage companies, it is still home to the fifth highest population of Alcor members in the country. “Hopefully, we can do a kind of 360 and make the most exciting things happen here again,” says Aschwin.

Aschwin took this meaningful selfie outside his first New York City apartment in 2019 to mark the beginning of ANB-NYC.

After his official move in early 2019, Aschwin set to work on a number of ANB research projects, starting with the Alcor meta-analysis project with local Alcor member, Michael Benjamin. As Alcor members are aware, the nonprofit creates a publicly available report for every patient case that it handles. The meta-analysis project seeks to consolidate the details of existing and future data into one comprehensive and searchable database. A simple click could then reveal how many cases are unattended deaths, how many cases are straight freezes, how many patients are autopsy cases, and so on and so forth. If trends and correlations between circumstance and outcome could be more easily identified, then they could be used to optimize the methodology of cryopreservation for cases yet to come.

Though the meta-analysis project is still underway, another collaborative project that recently reached completion is the first comprehensive human cryopreservation procedures manual. Co-authored by Aschwin and Charles Platt, this 700-page manual provides the technical background on cryonics procedures necessary to starting a cryonics organization from scratch. In Aschwin’s words, “As a general rule, when people have a technical question about cryonics, it is addressed in that book one way or another.” In a field that lacks a standard textbook, he and other cryonicists view this manual as an important record of institutional knowledge.

In terms of other publications, Aschwin has also been working on the hospital-based Medical Biostasis Protocol. A mostly theoretical document, given that cryonics is not yet considered an elective medical procedure, it describes how a cryopreservation should be done in the best of all circumstances (in a hospital setting). According to Aschwin, many cryonics critics cite ischemic delay or injury as evidence of the failure of cryonics; however, he adds, they often fail to acknowledge that such outcomes are reflective of a medical landscape that neither accepts cryonics nor allows for optimal conditions in which to perform a cryopreservation. Aschwin believes that the Medical Biostasis Protocol will provide a strong counter argument for naysayers, a performance baseline for any cryonics storage company, and perhaps even a useful text in legal proceedings.

In addition to building case report database and standardizing cryonics through the creation of manuals and protocols, ANB-NYC is also focused on journal publications. Their most immediate goal is to publish a trilogy of papers making the case for cryonics, with each paper addressing specific concerns about the field: what happens to the fine structure of the brain after death, what happens on an ultrastructural level you freeze the brain, and what happens to it when you cryoprotect (vitrify) the brain. The first paper, which was already published in the June 2020 edition of Rejuvenation Research, dispels the common belief that the brain rapidly decomposes after someone is pronounced dead. In fact, it demonstrates that it can take many days—if not weeks at low temperatures—before the brain shows significant degradation. The findings were informed by a deep learning algorithm that scanned through various images of the brain post-mortem to distinguish between different instances of ischemia. It is a tool that Aschwin hopes to incorporate in the second paper of the trilogy as well.

It almost goes without saying that Aschwin’s deep knowledge and prowess for technical writing is widely recognized in the field. Unsurprisingly, his cryonics output is not just confined to these “nerdy” topics. He also writes more popular expositions of various aspects of cryonics. One major concern in his writings is the inability of many critics to engage with the specifics of cryonics. In his view, skeptics throw around words like “death” and “damage” in a blasé fashion without specifying how cryopreservation technologies affect the fine structure of the brain. He writes, “If a critic of cryonics claims that cryonics is not technically feasible, insist upon a detailed exposition why the forms of damage associated with today’s technologies cannot be repaired by future medical technologies in principle.” 

Developing Infrastructure in NYC

Outside of ANB, Aschwin is also focused on building an infrastructure to make his city a cryonics destination. An important resource in advancing towards these goals is a formal group of NYC-based Alcor members. He first became acquainted with the group as an out-of-town speaker, but soon became a co-leader after his 2019 move.

The NYC Alcor group has many objectives, first of which is the most basic and historic: socializing. Aschwin explains, “People with outlier ideas like we have – it’s nice to meet in person and feel comfortable talking about the things you care about instead of meeting with cynical skepticism, hostility, or sensationalist questions.” Beyond coordinating meetings, Aschwin has also worked with the group to set up some first response capabilities. Together they created a mutual assistance network through WhatsApp wherein members—after notifying Alcor—can post in the event of a health emergency. Any escalations can reap the benefits of anticipation and a faster response time.

An advocate of pedestrian lifestyles, Aschwin frequently walks to work and events. Here he walks the final stretch of his 100,000 steps Fitbit challenge over the Burnside Bridge in Portland.

While this has certainly been progress, Aschwin has his sights set on something even greater. “I don’t want to leave it at that,” he says. “I think we have the aim of being something a lot more ambitious—to basically do all the procedures in New York itself.” To that end, he has worked with the group to acquire Alcor’s previous first response vehicle and set up both a cryonics first response training and a training course for medical professionals interested in cryonics. The group even organized a sold out cryonics conference in Manhattan in the fall of 2019.

Though the pandemic landscape has limited the group to virtual meetings for the last year, Aschwin anticipates an enthusiastic return to social and training events once conditions allow.

Defining Commitment

In 2022, Aschwin will have two decades of personal and professional commitment to cryonics to his name. In a fringe field that is often subject to harsh mainstream critique, many may ask: how do you stay the course? How do you maintain your resolve? While cryonicists will generally agree on the obvious—the drive to extend life for yourself and your loved ones—Aschwin’s motivations reveal many layers of consideration that reflect a touching humanism and reinforce an abounding curiosity.

In his view, one of the most powerful promises of cryonics is that of second chances. For individuals who suffer from chronic health conditions, severe trauma, or bad luck, or for those who simply regret poor life choices, cryonics is an opportunity to live a more meaningful life. He explains, “It’s like, ‘I want to have a second shot at this, because for 60 years it’s been so many setbacks.’ Or ‘I’m not proud of the person I was. I need more time to do it.’”

Aschwin is also fascinated by the impact of cryonics on the dimensions of experience. The longer a lifespan, the more one can broaden and deepen experiences or interests. “I think there’s almost no limit to how extensive or deep something can be,” says Aschwin. He continues, “Even if you go really deep into something for a long stretch, then you can do something else that is very deep, and something else, and you can go back again to revisit. Just like you replay music.” One dream that Aschwin would fulfill given an extended lifespan is the recreation of the Monroeville shopping mall that formed the main set for his favorite movie, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). A project like this would be dismissed within the framework of a typical lifespan, Aschwin explains, “But longevity—real radical life extension—would allow for such projects.”

Aschwin stands outside the Monroeville Mall during a 2017 visit. It is the main set for his favorite movie, Dawn of the Dead (1978).

Perhaps one of the greatest rewards of his commitment to the field, is the prospect of witnessing the first revivals of cryopreserved patients. For him, that experience would be “almost equivalent to magic, but not, of course, in a fake unscientific way.” Indeed, the successful resuscitation of patients would symbolize the apex of his career, and the fruition of many years of dedication.

The Way Forward

Cryonics has come a long way since Aschwin joined the field, but there are still many hurdles to overcome. In his view, the future of cryonics rests even more on internal forces than it does on the more popularly acknowledged external forces. His highest priority right now is streamlining organizational and operational standards. According to Aschwin, cryonics is a relatively small field that attracts a disproportionately high number of visionary leaders. Each shift in leadership brings new ideas and priorities into play, often sacrificing the procedural scrutiny that is characteristic of the medical field. He explains, “I think a lot of people are really not aware that cryonics is prone to this yoyo effect. But when the meta-analysis [project] makes that clear, then people will say, ‘Look now, we have these benchmarks, let us see how we’ve done this year.’” Aschwin hopes that the case database and analyses will ultimately help cryonics enjoy slow but steady progress and growth.

His focus on technical and professional standardization does not exclude consideration of other key areas for the growth of cryonics: namely, membership. For Aschwin, the key to expanding the community does not lie in simply using the talking points that worked for the pioneers of the field. He suggests a strategy that focuses on reaching non-members using pro-cryonics arguments that address their concerns within their own values system. One of Aschwin’s examples include the classic environmentalist concern about the harmful effects of population growth and life extension on the planet. He recommends a response that the knowledge of your existence deep in the future would more than likely encourage rather than discourage more sustainable practices. Aschwin says, “Most people pay lip service to future generations, but when you are part of it yourself, that makes a difference…It’s like the difference in caring for a rental versus something that you own.” Another anti-longevity argument that Aschwin frequently fields is that life is too hard to desire an extension of it. For individuals with these concerns, he focuses on identifying the lack of time as an important culprit, and conversely, the promise of more time as a way to greater ease, healing, and enjoyment of life.

In this vein of thinking, Aschwin draws attention to an article entitled “Beyond Skull and Skin: Concepts of Identity and the Growth of Cryonics.” In this piece, he attributes some of the unfavorable attitudes towards cryonics to the tendency of many cryonics advocates to promote a rather reductionist concept of personal identity and to ignore what most people say matters to them when they think about survival.  He says, “If cryonics has any prospect to appeal to more people, we must present an image of cryonics that emphasizes family, relationships, asset preservation, reintegration, and not just bombard people with technical expositions about brain preservation.”

Aschwin, a keen traveler, in Santiago, Chile in 2015.

In addition to respecting and addressing the concerns and sympathies of non-members, Aschwin also recommends approaching those who are already somewhat open to cryonics: the low-hanging fruit. Cryonics is a bold socio-cultural stance that simply may not hold appeal for everyone. Resultantly, he concludes that the most promising areas for recruitment are where people are analytical and generally optimistic. “That is where I think we can do a very good job,” he says.

Ever living up to the ideal of the “Renaissance Man”, Aschwin has a lot of other non-cryonics related projects in the works. On his fermentation blog he aims to dive deeper into the discussion of wine in philosophy and literature. He is working on an art book about an Italian genre movie.  He launched an art collaboration with minimalist artist Avantika Bawa named “Essential Salts” (readers skilled in the art will notice the Lovecraftian reference). Aschwin also aims to publish more about meta-ethics and social philosophy (he penned an extensive review of contemporary antinatalism a few years ago), and finally, to get his dream of starting a small niche publishing company off the ground. Given the scope and depth of these interests, it is no surprise that he will benefit from the additional time that the success of cryonics will confer.

Aschwin resides in New York City, though he frequently travels internationally for cryonics-related events and initiatives. His personal eclectic website is megapolisomancy.org. He also writes on natural wines and spontaneous fermentation on amforen.com. Most of Aschwin’s cryonics output and initiatives can be found at biostasis.com. He can be contacted through his LinkedIn page.

Funeral Director Participation in Cryonics

Originally published in Cryonics magazine, 1st Quarter, 2020

Joseph Klockgether’s 1970 address about the potential collaboration between funeral directors and cryonics organizations is a product of its time in terms of optimism about the growth of cryonics, but remarkably up-to-date in terms of what funeral directors can do to assist in a successful human cryopreservation.

Funeral Director assistance in cryonics can come roughly in three forms:

1. Ad-hoc utilization of cooperating funeral directors to assist in procedural, logistical, and regulatory aspects of a cryonics case. Often these funeral homes are identified after contacting several of them in the course of managing a cryonics case.

2. Repeated cooperation with a known funeral director. In such cases, a cooperating and dependable funeral director was identified prior or during a case and this relationship is continued in future cases.

3. The cryonics organization has a close relationship with a funeral director. In the most favorable situation, the funeral director is strongly supportive of cryonics or even has cryonics arrangements himself. The funeral director (or his staff) attends cryonics meetings and training and actively collaborates to optimize his role in a cryonics case.

Funeral director cooperation of the first kind cannot always be avoided but basically reflects poor planning of the cryonics organization or regional group. Or perhaps one might say that it reflects a lack of interest of the cryonics organization to encourage local groups or individuals to establish enduring and productive relationships with local funeral directors. In cases of ad-hoc or sporadic contact, a funeral director cannot be expected to correctly comply with any kind of cryonics logistical or shipping procedures unfamiliar to him. This is not a fault of the funeral director; it is simply unrealistic for a new funeral home to properly educate themselves about cryonics procedures and shipping instructions. Such circumstances call for detailed documentation, good communication, and having (local) people onsite to ensure compliance with cryonics organization directions.

If a funeral director is well known to the cryonics organization, such requirements can be somewhat relaxed but having people onsite and providing photographic evidence of proper compliance and local verification remains a must.

If a cryonics organization has a strong, enduring, relationship with a funeral director (or the funeral director is a cryonicist himself) the kind of scrutiny that would be proper would be similar to the kind of scrutiny that would be recommended for cooperating with existing SST (Standby, Stabilization and Transport) organizations.

Three issues that need considerable attention in cooperating with funeral directors are (1) transport from the hospital (or hospice) to the funeral home (2) surgical assistance (3) shipping of the patient. There is such a vast difference between comprehensive cryonics stabilization procedures (rapid cooling, cardiopulmonary support, and medications administration) that basic patient pick-up and transport would only be an option in case the cryonics organization (or its contractors) cannot arrive in time and local assistance is not available. The only exception to this rule is where a funeral home is an active, well-staffed, component of existing SST operations (a rarity). A similar argument applies to surgical assistance. If no appropriate medical staff can be deployed in time, a funeral director can be asked to assist in establishing vascular access under the supervision of the cryonics organization and on-site team members. This would usually entail neck vessel or femoral surgery to assist in washout or field cryoprotection.

One of the most important and sensitive topics is the assistance of a funeral director in cooling and shipping. These tasks often seem so intuitively simple that there is a tendency to trust funeral directors to comply with the cryonics organization’s directions. Unfortunately, cryonics organizations have learned the hard way that verbal directions or even detailed written instructions are not sufficient to ensure compliance. As much as there are overlapping areas of interest of funeral directors and cryonics organizations, funeral directors are usually not in the business of applying rapid (emergency) procedures. One issue of particular concern is a misunderstanding of ice packing instructions (too little, too late, water ice vs dry ice) and long-distance shipping requirements (insulation, leaking prevention, replenishing the ice used during the cooling process prior to shipping). Local assistance, oversight, and photographic documentation prior to authorization shipment are essential to avoid disastrous outcomes (warming or thawing of the patient).

The observations above may make it seem that the productive relationship between funeral directors and cryonics organizations is more akin to getting out of each other’s way than the magnificent cooperation envisioned in the Klockgether article. Given the low popularity of cryonics it is not likely that any funeral home can expect to substantially grow its operations and profits in dealing with cryonics organizations. Carefully nurturing enduring (local) cooperation between cryonics organizations and cryonics providers remains important, however, and avoiding last-minute, ad-hoc utilization of funeral directors should be a last resort. In smaller countries having an actively interested and proactive funeral director can be key for delivering cryonics services in particular.

What if senolytics fail?

There is a school of thought within the life extension movement that favors prioritizing the promotion of cryonics over anti-aging efforts. There are a number of arguments for this. A technical argument has been put forward in Thomas Donaldson’s seminal article “Why Cryonics Will Probably Help You More Than Anti-aging.”

The most rigorous test to determine whether an anti-aging therapy works entails giving it to a group of people and determining whether these people live longer (without any detrimental side-effects). The timescales entailed do not permit rapid progress in a field. Aiming for outright rejuvenation might be a better strategy because it allows for more short-term objective metrics to be used. Some of these metrics are common sense (athletic performance, skin appearance, cognitive tests etc.), others are more controversial (biochemical “biomarkers” of aging).

Wherever one comes down in this debate, it cannot be denied that cryobiological research can be pursued in a more precise, time-efficient manner. For example, if you want to determine whether a vitrification solution resists freezing when it is cooled to cryogenic temperatures, you need no more than a day to perform the experiment and document the results. This vitrification solution can then be introduced to an organ to determine whether the organ can be vitrified and recovered without ice formation.

This is not just conjecture. Since the mid-20th century a small number of dedicated cryobiologists have solved the problem of designing cryoprotectants that do not freeze at realistic cooling- and warming rates. Major progress has been made in mitigating toxicity and chilling injury of those cryoprotectants as well. It is important to keep this in mind when cryonics advocates are taken to task for not making as much progress as the people in the anti-aging field.

Another advantage of the field of cryobiology is that most of its findings are observed in all popular mammalian animal models. Phenomena such as cryoprotectant toxicity and cryoprotectant-induced brain shrinking are observed in both small- and large animal models. In aging research, however, the important role of evolution and genetics makes translating results from small animal models to humans a lot trickier. After all, an evolutionary perspective on aging needs to explain different lifespans in different animals and species (and even within). An intervention that prolongs the life in a small animal may only have minor health benefits in humans (like caloric restriction).

On a conceptual level the major figures in the life extension advocacy field cannot even agree on what aging is (put Aubrey de Grey, Michael Rose, and Joshua Mitteldorf in one room and see the sparks fly!) and the field is not immune to succumbing to one fad after another (while believing that this time it is for real). Part of this problem is related to the lack of objective, short-term measures to determine the effectiveness of an anti-aging treatment in humans. If it would be possible to asses the effectiveness of an anti-aging therapy in a quick and unambiguous manner, one theory of aging might be more easily favored over another.

Recent developments in the field of biomarkers of aging and “aging clocks” have given hope to those who believe that it now will be easier and time-efficient to determine the effectiveness of an anti-aging intervention. As of writing, there are several different biomarkers of aging and there is no consensus if these measures capture all the important aspects of aging. In fact, whether one clock is favored over another is itself reflective of one’s perspective on what aging is, which brings us back to the fundamental disagreements over aging that continue to divide biogerontologists. One thing that these biomarkers of aging will not be able to tell is whether an intervention is effective and safe in the long run. Or whether the maximum human life span would be altered by a specific intervention.

It cannot be emphasized enough that, as of writing, there is not one single anti-aging biotechnology that has been demonstrated to produce extension of the maximum human lifespan, let alone unambiguous evidence of rejuvenation. This should have a sobering effect on dispassionate observers of the field but it is no exaggeration to claim that many movers and shakers in the field are are not dispassionate and actually prone to embracing the next big thing, which often generates (predictable) cycles of great enthusiasm and disillusion.

The current big thing in the anti-aging field is the identification and validation of senolytics. Since the clearing of senescent cells is one of the pillars of the SENS program, the success of this approach will have important consequences for the “aging as damage accumulation” school of aging. Billions are flowing into this field in the anticipation of successful biomedical applications. So far, the results in small animal models look modestly encouraging and human trials have shown mixed results. The failure of a major phase II study for knee osteoarthritis is not encouraging and no doubt supporters will claim that systemic administration of senolytics is the way to go. Or that this is the wrong kind of senolytic. Or that the dosage and administration frequency is not right. Or that senolytics are necessary but not sufficient to produce meaningful anti-aging results etc. Not to speak of the possibility that senescent cells can also play a positive role (like the much dreaded “free radicals” of older anti-aging efforts).

At some point it would behoove the life extension community to seek a better balance between the funding of anti-aging therapies and the funding of (applied) cryonics research. Many wealthy people prefer to fund anti-aging research because it captures their hope that they do not have to die at all. Anti-aging therapies also offer a more attractive investment potential, which is often mistaken as the field being further advanced than biopreservation technologies. And let us not ignore the obvious point that that for many very old people the rejuvenation approach will not come in time.

Given enough time, all people will suffer a fatal accident, major trauma, or a type of (infectious) disease for which there is no treatment available (yet). For this reason alone, a comprehensive life extension plan should include arrangements for biopreservation to survive long-term.

What if senolytics fail? I suspect this will produce a major disillusion of the growing anti-aging biotechnology field and the SENS program in particular. A prudent approach would be to work from the premise that many of these therapies won’t work, or only have modest effects, and also invest in an evidence-based cryonics infrastructure so that, in principle, all people can access rejuvenation technologies regardless of health condition or age. One of the attractive features of medical timetravel is that it can transport today’s people to a time when rejuvenation biotechnologies are fact, not hope.

[In part 2 of this series, we will delve deeper into the field of biogerontology, its complexities, and how to prevent wasteful research spending….]

Biostasis 2020

The Biostasis conference series, hosted by the European Biostasis Foundation (EBF), a Basel-based non-profit foundation, is focused on biostasis, cryobiology and cryopreservation.

The conference brings the leading scientists, providers, startups and foundations together. Usually the conference is hosted in Zurich, Switzerland but in 2020 we will host it online.. It will cover relevant topics from A to Z, from basic and applied research to marketing, ethics, service providers, and new approaches.

Among others, speakers will be: Grey Fahy, Aschwin de Wolf, Robert McIntyre, Max More, Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, Adam Higgins, … and many more

Due to a larger contribution, 250 tickets to Biostasis2020  are available for free.

Get one while the free tickets last https://biostasis2020.eventbrite.com/

Cryopreservation With Dignity

It is evident that controlling your time of death can greatly improve the conditions and outcomes of a cryonics procedure. The biggest advantage is that it categorically eliminates the possibility of an unattended death which can produce extensive periods of ischemia, the risk of a destructive autopsy, culminating in a “straight freeze” (cryopreservation without cryoprotection). At the very least, it mostly eliminates the prolonged adverse dying phase often associated with terminally ill patients.

These reasons, and a commitment to self-determination, cause many cryonics advocates to support the “right to die” and (state) legislation to make this option legally available to terminally ill persons. A small subset of cryonics advocates, however, have felt uncomfortable with the support for a sociopolitical movement aimed at securing the “right to die” because they understand that the majority of people seeking this right suffer from medical conditions that can be treated by more advanced medical procedures in the future and would be better served by a life-saving procedure such as cryopreservation instead.

Not withstanding these finer ethical points, utilizing medical aid in dying to secure a more timely and well-managed cryopreservation is a sensible pragmatic choice for terminally ill people with cryonics arrangements. But it should be emphasized that in such scenarios the aim is not to terminate life but to induce metabolic arrest for more advanced medical treatment in the future. This stands in stark contrast to the reasons why most people currently take advantage of such laws. As an evidence-based life-saving procedure, cryonics would benefit from distinct legal protections that provide people the option to choose cryonics as an elective medical procedure

We need a different ethical and legal framework to prevent that cryonics continues to be practiced as a chaotic form of emergency medicine. Philosophers Francesca Minerva & Anders Sandberg have made the case for “cryothanasia” (a term coined in 2015 by Ole Martin Moen) and argue that, as a procedure aimed at saving lives, many of the objections to euthanasia would not apply to cryothanasia.

There is a tendency among some cryonics advocates to overestimate the beneficial effects of controlling the timing of their cryopreservation. Unless choosing the time of your death is followed by rapid standby, stabilization, and field cryoprotection, minimizing distance and transport time to the cryonics facility might still provide a better outcome for most cryonics members.

Cryonics organizations and their members should exercise restraint in political advocacy for right to die laws and focus on creating a favorable legal climate to practice cryonics as an experimental medical procedure instead. There are many people fighting for the right to die, but there are not many people fighting for the right to life extension, which would entail the right to be cryopreserved through professionally-managed hospital-based procedure.

Nightmare of a Cryonicist

A fictional piece by Ben Best

I have tried to live a healthy and safe life in hope that rejuvenation would become available soon. But I made cryonics arrangements in case it did not.

I feared dying in my sleep or in an automobile accident. But I have gotten an aggressive form of cancer that has spread throughout my body, including to my brain, and it cannot be stopped.  My lungs are also cancerous, which means that I am now on a ventilator to keep me breathing and alive.

I have made the decision to terminate my current life before the cancer destroys too much of my brain. I will give a hand signal to have the ventilator removed.

I am in a hospice where a standby team has been assembled. The stabilization equipment is in place, and the team is ready to quickly respond as soon as I give the hand signal. A physician will be on hand to rapidly pronounce death. My power of attorney for health care is here in case I lack the power to give the hand signal.

My friends and relatives are here too. They come and say goodbye with hugs and kisses. Letting go of life is not easy. Some of my friends and family are begging me to cling to life for as long as I can. But if I do so, I will slowly disappear as the cancer destroys my brain. Possibly a miracle cure will be discovered within a few months, but that is very unlikely.

If I give the hand signal to remove the ventilator, will it be like holding a gun to my head and pulling the trigger?

How much time would it be before revival? 25 years? 50 years? 100 years? Longer? Never?

What could happen in that time?

Destruction of my liquid nitrogen container by a terrorist?

A nuclear war?

An asteroid hitting the planet?

A worldwide pandemic that destroys cryonics?

Mismanagement, lawsuits, or bitter infighting that destroys cryonics organizations?

Government action due to political pressure that destroys cryonics organizations?

Failure of cryonics technology to revive?

Several more months of life might be the last opportunity to enjoy friends, family, and all the things I love about life. I hate being in this position. My life does not go before my eyes, there is only fear and doubt. I do not want to die. I do not want my life to end.

I give the hand signal.  Consciousness stops. 

1st Alcor New York Science Symposium

Cryonics returns to its New York roots on November 23 when Alcor New York organizes its first Alcor New York Symposium. Attend the most ambitious cryonics event in NYC in decades and learn about brain cryopreservation, molecular repair, and rejuvenation biotechnologies.

This symposium will feature 3 presentations by staff of Advanced Neural Biosciences about its neural cryobiology, revival, and deep learning research.

There are only a few tickets left. Register using the link below:

https://1stalcornewyorksymposium.splashthat.com/

Speakers announced so far:

Dr. Pedro Magalhaes – Will We Cure Aging in My Lifetime?

People have always sought eternal life and everlasting youth. Recent technological breakthroughs, and our growing understanding of ageing, have given strength to the idea that a cure for human ageing can eventually be developed. Hundreds of genes are now known to regulate ageing in model organisms and can increase longevity by up to 10 fold and retard the process of ageing as a whole in animals. In addition, a large number of potential longevity-extending drugs already exist. Studies of species with exceptional longevity or disease resistance, like naked mole rats that are resistant to cancer or bowhead whales that live over 200 years, may also help treat and prevent human diseases. Here, I will discuss recent advances in longevity science and human applications on the horizon. The scientific prospects of eradicating human ageing within the foreseeable future will also be discussed.

Dr. Regina R. Monaco – Low-Dose Pharmacological Interventions to Facilitate Healthy Aging – Reduction of Cancer Risk

As we grow in our understanding of aging as a series of biochemical pathways and systems undergoing programmed entropic degradations, which may be reversed, re-entrained, stabilized, minimized, maximized, turned off or on, or otherwise healthfully intervened in, we gain more and more tools to assist this process to maintain a healthful equilibrium. One important intervention to extend healthy life span is to use pharmaceuticals or neutraceuticals to reduce your probability of having cancer.

In this talk I present and discuss several low dose pharmacological interventions which have been shown to have strong ant-cancer properties, we well as some other benefits such as reduction of chronic inflammation. I will review the mechanisims and anti-cancer benefits of low-dose therapy of the pharmaceuticals metformin, naltrexone, aspirin, and for women, tamoxifen (breast cancer). I will also discuss benefits of targeting and inducing apoptosis (killing) to remove a percentage of senescent cells using rapamycin, and neutraceuticals fisetin, and quercitin, with or without dasatinab.

Ben Best – NAD+ Restoration and Senolytic Therapy

Ben Best has subjected himself to two age reversal therapies: (1) senolytic therapy (therapy to eliminate senescent cells using dasatinib and quercetin) and (2) NAD+ infusions (to restore NAD+ to youthful levels). He has also attended several conferences dealing with these subjects as well as studied and written about them, the results of which he will provide in his presentation.

Chana Phaedra – An Introduction to Brain Preservation Optimization

Vitrification has the advantage that it does not need different cryoprotectant protocols for different cell- and tissue types. Vitrification of the brain does presents two distinct challenges: low tolerance to ischemia and poor blood-brain barrier permeability of cryoprotectants. In this presentation I will review the history of brain cryopreservation, the status of brain cryopreservation research, and future directions.

Aschwin de Wolf – Revival of “Straight Frozen” Patients

Freezing of the brain without cryoprotectant (a “straight freeze”) is considered the worst cryopreservation scenario but there is a paucity of ultrastructural evidence how the straight frozen brain actually looks like. Aschwin de Wolf will review electron micrographs of the straight frozen brain (under a variety of conditions) and will discuss how “medical cryobots” will prepare the brain for molecular repair and infer the original non-frozen state from the damaged state.

Michael Benjamin – Alcor Meta-Analysis

Several attempts have been made to create quantitative case outcome methodologies in cryonics. Advanced Neural Biosciences has embarked on a comprehensive meta-analysis of all Alcor patient cases, an endeavor whose goal is to develop, experimentally validate, and refine a quantitative cryopreservation evaluation methodology. Michael will be presenting some preliminary statistics gathered during Phase 1 of the study so far.

Dr. Ralf Spindler – Functional evaluation of brain preservation protocols

Currently, reversible vitrification of whole brains is limited by neurotoxicity of the very concentrated vitrification solutions involved. Here, an automated assay is described which has proven to quantify synaptic connections in live-cell neuronal networks by a high-content confocal imaging method. Since it is known that synaptodentritic damage, especially the decrease in number of synaptic connections, correlates with cognitive decline the assay could be used to evaluate brain preservation protocols.

Dr. Roman Bauer – Computational Biology Methods for Tissue Cryopreservation

In contrast to most other biomedical fields, tissue cryopreservation has remained relatively untouched by computational techniques. State-of-the-art cryopreservation still predominantly relies on trial-and-error and large numbers of experiments for the determination of protocol parameters. Roman Bauer will review milestones in computational and mathematical work towards better cryopreservation protocols, and will discuss how he sees future automated cryopreservation technologies maximize post-thaw tissue quality.

Dr. Emil Kendziorra – Professionalization and Scaling of Medical Biostasis

With only a few thousand members world-wide, medical biostasis has stayed a very small field, albeit being around for decades. In Europe the topic has been even more niche. The EBF (European Biostasis Foundation) based in Switzerland, has recently set out to fundamentally change this situation with four main areas of activity – sign up / stand-by, storage, research and long-term asset management. Emil Kendziorra will present the core activities to professionalize medical biostasis and scale the field.

Dr. Robin Hanson – Hidden Motives Help Explain Why Cryonics Isn’t Popular

The usual pro-cryonics argument frames it as medicine, to be evaluated in terms of its technical ability to prolong life. However, though they are unaware of it, for most people medicine is more about showing that they care than about prolonging life. Robin Hanson reviews the evidence that many big areas of life are driven by hidden motives quite different from what people usually say, and then tries to apply this insight to help us understand why so few people actually choose cryonics.

The Circle of Willes in Cryonics Perfusion

Blood flows into the brain primarily via the carotid arteries and the vertebral arteries. The Circle of Willis is a circular arterial structure in the brain that connects blood flowing in from the carotid arteries with blood flowing in from the basilar artery (which is fed by the vertebral arteries).
Blood flows from the Circle of Willis into brain tissue via the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral arteries. Many studies have shown that the Circle of Willis is incomplete in most people. A 1998 study of 150 healthy adult volunteers showed a complete Circle of Willis in only 42% of cases — more often complete in younger persons and females [RADIOLOGY; Krabbe-Hartkamp,MJ; 207(1):103-111 (1998)]. A slightly more encouraging 2002 study of 118 healthy volunteers in the 65-68 age group, showed 47% had a complete Circle of Willis [THE JOURNAL OF CARDIOVASCULAR SURGERY; Macchi,C; 43(6):887-890 (2002)]

For cryonics purposes, it has been believed that perfusion into the carotid arteries, but not into the vertebral arteries will result in incomplete perfusion of the brain if the Circle of Willis is not complete. In particular, if both posterior communicating arteries are missing, then perfusing only through the carotid arteries will result in no blood getting to parts of the brain supplied by the posterior cerebral arteries. Both posterior communicating arteries were missing in 11% of those in the 1998 study and in 14% of those in the 2002 study cited above.

Nonetheless, a 2008 study showing Circle of Willis complete in only 40% of 99 patients found no case of insufficient perfusion in functional tests of patients given unilateral cerebral perfusion. The authors concluded that “extracranial collateral circulation” provides an alternative pathway to the Circle of Willis for cerebral crossperfusion [EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY; Urbanski,PP; 33(3):402-408 (2008)]. Although persons with missing posterior communicating arteries could easily have pathways to opposite sides of the brain, other variants of Circle of Willis incompleteness would be expected to prevent perfusion across hemispheres.

When the cryonics organization Alcor does a cephalic isolation (“neuro”) perfusion, the carotid arteries are initially cannulated and the vertebrals are not cannulated. Only if when the patient is being perfused into the carotid arteries no flow is seen coming from the vertebral arteries are the
vertebral arteries to be cannulated and the patient is to be perfused through both the carotids and the vertebrals. If, on the other hand, flow is seen coming from one of the vertebral arteries after perfusion of the carotids has begun, it is assumed that the Circle of Willis is complete and the vertebral arteries are clamped for the rest of the perfusion. Flow only needs to be seen in one of the vertebrals to confirm that the Circle of Willis is complete, because the vertebrals unite in the basilar artery before connecting to the Circle of Willis.

One Alcor employee has informed me that of 15-20 neuro patients perfused by this cephalic isolation method, not once has there been an absence of flow from the vertebrals and not once has Alcor perfused a cephalic isolation patient through the vertebral arteries. This would be slightly improbable, based on a 10-15% expected rate of incomplete communicating posterior arteries on both sides. But another Alcor employee remembers one or two cases where vertebral artery perfusion was done (which would match expectations).

When both posterior communicating arteries are not missing, there is another potential problem with perfusing only into the carotids and not the vertebrals — namely, loss of perfusion pressure. Perfusate entering the Circle of Willis could exit through the basilar artery (the vertebrals) instead
of through the cerebral arteries. Vascular resistance in the body is reportedly only one quarter what it is in the brain. Clamping the vertebral arteries (as is done during Alcor neuro perfusions) could prevent this problem. Blood flowing into the basilar artery need not be pushing all of the blood in the body, however, because arteries — and especially veins — have a large reserve capacity (a balloon-like ability to expand).

Possibly the reserve capacity of the brain would allow blood to flow into the brain as readily as into the body. Blood has about three times the viscosity of water, and vitrification solution has about twice the viscosity of blood. Viscosity will increase vascular resistance in all blood vessels, but the effect would be greater in the brain. The “no reflow” phenomenon would also create resistance in the blood vessels, which again might be greater in the brain than in the body.

Prior to the use of vitrification solution, the Cryonics Institute only perfused cryonics patients through the carotid arteries — there was no attempt to perfuse into the vertebral arteries. Nonetheless, dehydration was seen in the patients, and adequate effluent flow was seen from the jugular veins. Perfusion pressures were reportedly not excessive.

Currently, CI’s funeral director has been opening the chest (median sternotomy), and attempting to clamp the subclavian arteries, as well as the descending aorta, to perfuse into the ascending aorta. In several cases the ascending aorta has been perforated, forcing higher cannulations or the subclavians have been difficult to cannulate after having opened the chest. Our funeral director refused to open the chest at all for a known case of Methacillin- Resistant Staphylococcus Aureas (MRSA).

It would be preferable if a case could be made for perfusing all CI patients only through the carotids. Carotid-only has been recommended for vitrification perfusions overseas, as well as for glycerol perfusions in post-mortem sign-ups. Whether vitrification solution perfusion into the carotids can achieve adequate perfusion pressure in the brain — and whether adequate perfusion pressure can be verified by the observation of effluent from the jugular veins remains unresolved.

It should not be too difficult to clamp the vertebral arteries by cutting near the clavicle, as CI’s funeral director did when CI began the attempt to perfuse the vertebrals as well as the carotid arteries. Nonetheless, this would result in failure to perfuse portions of the brain supplied by the posterior cerebral arteries in the 10-15% of patients who are missing both posterior communicating arteries.

First published in The Immortalist, February, 2011

Biostasis.com

Biostasis.com is the world’s largest independent website about cryonics and medical human biostasis.

In 2007 Aschwin de Wolf launched the cryonics blog Depressed Metabolism, the first professional blog to exclusively cover the science and practice of cryonics. Out of this platform emerged The Institute for Evidence-Based Cryonics (2008-2018), a non-profit aimed at educating the general public about cryonics. The Institute organized a number of groundbreaking symposiums on cryonics and dementia and cryonics revival scenarios. The Evidence-Based Cryonics Institute website also became the official host of the Scientist’s Open Letter on Cryonics and engaged in several campaigns to draw attention to recent breakthroughs in brain cryopreservation.

Biostasis continues the journey that started with Depressed Metabolism and the Institute for Evidence-Based Cryonics. Its goal remains to educate the general public about cryonics and human biostasis in all its aspects. We will keep publishing new content and historical documents relating to cryonics and remain the official host of the Scientist’s Open Letter on Cryonics. This year we will also announce the publication of the first detailed medical human biostasis protocol that will allow hospitals to educate themselves about offering cryonics as an elective medical procedure. In 2019 we will also announce a series of initiatives to study the theoretical aspects of conducting cell repairs at low-temperatures, or medical cryobotics.

All entries from the depressed metabolism and evidence-based cryonics website remain available on the biostasis website. Please update your links and spread the word about biostasis.com.

Good Cryonics is Local

The enemies of a good cryonics case are time and temperature. Deployment of a standby team that can start rapid cooling upon circulatory arrest should take care of the temperature challenge. The time element is more challenging. Even if a patient is stabilized rapidly after pronouncement of legal death, logistical and legal challenges can interfere with timely transport to Alcor for subsequent procedures. For example, if a patient is rapidly cooled down in North Dakota but logistical challenges and flight schedules prevent arrival of the patient at Alcor until several days later, the patient will still be subjected to progressive deterioration of the fine structure of the brain, breakdown of the blood brain barrier, swelling, and a number of processes that prevent smooth cryoprotection of the brain, or even necessitate a “straight freeze” (cryopreservation without a cryoprotectant). How should Alcor deal with the challenge of having only one physical location in Arizona but being responsible for members all over the world?

The most obvious solution is for a terminal member to move to Alcor. In almost all cases this is the preferred solution because this prevents several potential logistical, legal, and technical challenges. The advantages of moving to Alcor are so great for both the cryonics organization and the patient that Alcor offers up to $10,000 in relocation assistance. To further incentivize such a choice, Alcor could consider further increasing the amount of relocation assistance and/or actively assist older and sick members to consider relocating.

Another solution is to bring all major Alcor procedures to the location of the patient. This is easier said than done. Whereas a patient relocation does not require major expenditures and logistical decisions on the part of Alcor, bringing cryoprotection to the patient is a non-trivial task because it entails performing Alcor’s operating room procedures at a remote location. In practice, this can be done, and Alcor has cautiously authorized “field cryoprotection” for overseas and selected US cases. In principle field cryoprotection is possible for both neuro-patients and whole body patients but true whole body field cryoprotection would require the creation of an adequately equipped vehicle or satellite facility, not to speak of medical expertise. Recognition of the fact that many Alcor members do not relocate when terminally ill, and potential cost savings, have prompted some Alcor officials to advocate expanding field cryoprotection to more members.

Since it is obviously easier to bring a patient to a hospital than a hospital to a patient, more effort will need to be spent in educating members of the advantages of timely relocation to the Scottsdale area.

There might be one route to bringing the hospital to the patient and that is to encourage the creation of several of “cryonics hubs” in areas with large numbers of Alcor members. Support and recognition from Alcor for such initiatives is necessary but a decentralized approach could be effective here. Local members can start with creating a cryonics infrastructure to assist professional standby teams. Such efforts can include maintaining a list of pertinent local regulations, cooperating funeral homes, local volunteers and medical professionals, and flight schedules. A more ambitious step would be to equip certain areas with a local rescue vehicle, as was done in the past in Southern California. A more ambitious step would be to equip such a vehicle for field cryoprotection or even set up such facilities in a cooperating funeral home or building. This is a formidable task that would require many hours of work and considerable expenses but it would produce a more robust response infrastructure for Alcor to utilize. It could also make some areas less vulnerable to episodes of deteriorating response capabilities at Alcor. Last but not least, bringing people together to engage in such a project will also tighten the social fabric and local visibility of cryonics.

Originally published as a column in Cryonics magazine, November – December, 2018