A technical cryonics article to be published in the conference proceedings of a customarily peer-reviewed scientific journal, entitled “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice (pdf),” by Ben Best, President of the Cryonics Institute, will appear in the next issue (Volume 11, Issue 2) of Rejuvenation Research. (A previous article by Ralph Merkle, “The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics,” was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 1992, an editorial board-reviewed journal.)
As can be surmised, Mr. Best’s paper expounds upon the scientific basis for engaging in and supporting the practice of cryonics. He begins by providing the reader with an overview of cryonics as it is practiced today, including the mathematical basis for rapid reduction of body temperature in order to reduce chemical reaction rates to slow down the cascade of harmful events culminating in neuronal damage due to ischemia after cardiac arrest. He reports that six minutes of warm ischemia at 37 degrees C would take 100 sextillion (10^23) years to occur at liquid nitrogen temperature (-196 degrees Celsius).
The article continues with a discussion of vitrification and cryogenic storage, including a discussion of the history of cryoprotectants and vitrification solutions in cryonics. A concise treatment of resuscitation experiments lending credence to the possibility of “reversible death” is then provided, alongside a short discourse on investigations into limiting apoptosis (“programmed cell death”) and ischemic damage / reperfusion injury. He further stresses the fact that “conservative cryonics strives to minimize damage and minimize reliance on future molecular repair technologies.”
The article concludes with a section describing contemporary cryonics procedures, followed by a persuasive argument regarding the nature of science and the validity of using indirect evidence as a basis for the practice of cryonics. The author provides numerous examples of scientific endeavors that have benefited from “model-building based on extrapolations from indirect evidence,” as well as modern instances of cryopreservation of human stem cells and animal DNA in anticipation of future technology.
Mr. Best states, “It is not unscientific to risk modest or heroic medical treatments that are justified by indirect evidence for some probability of success, rather than absolute guarantee of success.” This is the most persuasive, and yet least appreciated, argument in favor of cryonics. We can only hope that continued publication of scientific and technical cryonics papers in peer-reviewed literature will engender wider acceptance of such humanitarian efforts.