For the rich and famous, facelifts, tummy tucks and Botox are standard operating procedure to help them look younger than their years. Expensive injections of human growth hormone and young blood plasma are other tricks they use to add some time and quality to their life.
Yet, when all is said and done, mortality is still lurking right around the corner. Or is it?
Freeze Now, Thaw Out Later
If you’re like a growing number of star athletes and celebrities who just can’t accept their privileged lives coming to an end, is it worth considering having your body frozen until science comes up with a way to save you?
The practice is called cryonics — the technique of deep-freezing the bodies of people who have just died, in the hope that scientific advances may allow them to be revived in the future. And there might be something to it.
Cryonics is not new. According to Alcor/Life Extension Foundation, one of the leading cryonics organizations in the world, the first individual was cryopreserved in 1967. About one hundred more have followed suit since then.
Alcor claims that over 1000 people are signed up with their organization and have made the legal and medical plans that are necessary before a human being can undergo the freezing procedure.
What each and every one of these presumably wealth people hope is that science may be able to bring them back sometime in the future.
Here’s How it Works
The cryopreservation process of a newly dead body ideally goes like this.
Within moments of cardiac arrest, the victim’s blood circulation and breathing are artificially restored. A series of medications are administered to protect brain cells from oxygen deprivation. A rapid cooling process then begins to further protect the brain cells from damage and keep them alive as long as possible.
After all these steps, the body is drained of blood and fluids, which are replaced with a kind of antifreeze solution that won’t form damaging ice crystals in vital organs.
Once this initial prep work is done, the body is cooled down by one degree Celsius per hour until it reaches a final temperature of -196°C, a process that takes about two weeks. The body is then taken to Alcor’s storage facility, where it’s kept upside down in a specially constructed freezer, awaiting the medical breakthroughs that will cure whatever illness brought the person to death’s door.
In the world of cryonics, the healthy preservation of brain cells is considered the most important goal. They contain all the precious information that makes you, you: the memories, the learning, the life experiences that you want preserved and functioning when you come back in a refreshed and maybe even new and improved body. Without the brain cells, the cryopreservation process is pointless.
I supposed most other organs can be replaced if need be – by organs from donors, or new ones grown from stem cells (assuming those are also preserved), or even by synthetic organs of some kind. But the personality and life experiences encoded in your brain cells can’t be grown or replaced.
New Breakthrough Preserves The Brain
To preserve them, in 2016 cryonics researchers developed a breakthrough technique that allows long-term storage of a near-perfect mammalian brain. The procedure, called Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation (ASC), was shown to preserve the delicate neural circuits of an intact rabbit brain so well that neuroscientist Dr. Kenneth Hayworth enthused, “Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain.”
This is great news for a growing number of rich and famous folks who are seriously considering reaching for immortality by way of cryonic preservation.
I don’t know what this means for the already-deceased Alcor clients in storage, but from here on out, it looks like it may be possible to save brains – a person’s actual identity.
Freezing With The Stars
Baseball slugger Ted Williams was an early believer in the potential immortality that cryonics has to offer. In 2002, 12 hours after his death at age 83, Williams’ head was separated from his body at an Alcor facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.
There, his head was cryogenically prepped, stored, and still awaits breakthroughs in medical science that will bring him back, possibly in a cloned body, with his mind and memories fully intact. Williams’ only son, John Henry, followed suit in 2004 after passing away at age 35 from leukemia.
Although still practically a child at age 44, funnyman Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy and Ted, is already signed up to be cryogenically preserved when the time comes. It’s possible he will be joining boxing great Muhammad Ali, who began exploring cryonics as early as the 1980s. (It must be noted that the Ali family has not publicly confirmed whether their husband and father wanted his remains cryogenically preserved.)
Other stars too, are giving cryonics a serious look. Simon Cowell, Larry King, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears are a sampling of the diverse array of celebrities who have all admitted that being frozen in time might be their plan. (If that’s going to be the company you have to keep, you might prefer death. Aging Defeated understands. . .)
But don’t think you have to be a millionaire to afford cryopreservation. You can get away with a deal in the low six figures. $200,000 buys you whole body cryopreservation and a mere $80,000 purchases neuro-preservation at the time of death (plus there’s a $525 annual membership fee).
Alcor/Life Extension will carry out the cryopreservation procedure and keep you in a deep freeze until medical science can find a way to bring you back.
A Little Big Creepy
Is it ghoulish? Or the stuff of science fiction? Many would say yes. Is there any guarantee that you will safely be returned to life in perfect health with your mind intact? Definitely not. Yet, the cryonics movement continues to grow in popularity, with many smart and successful people giving it a fling.
Preserving your brain is the key to successful cryopreservation.
How far would you go to be young and healthy forever?