The Case for Cryonics
Will cryonics work?
"Can you successfully reverse cryonic suspension," i.e. "can you bring someone back?"
While suspended patients cannot be revived with current technology, we in cryonics believe that scientific advances may well make possible the future revival of patients from cryonic suspension. We recognize the uncertainty of any prediction regarding future technology, but the advances that have occurred even since Robert Ettinger wrote the Prospect of Immortality in 1964 (from nanotechnology to vitrification to new cryoprotective agents) lead us to believe that the future is on our side. Those who bet against progress have almost always been wrong- and we are betting that the same optimism applies to cryonics.
Damage does occur in the cryonic suspension process, but there are sound reasons to believe that that damage can be limited, especially for patients and their families who are prepared, and can begin the process as soon as possible after clinical death. That is what we are dedicated to achieving for our members.
The evidence supporting cryonics is compelling, so we invite you to explore some of the key arguments below, review our Resource Library for more in-depth information and decide for yourself.
Insights from Robert Ettinger, "The Father of Cryonics"
In 1962, a physics lecturer at Wayne State University named Robert C. Ettinger founded the cryonics movement with the publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality and introduced the world to a groundbreaking concept he termed "Cryonics."
Ettinger always looked at the concept of cryonics and particularly cryonic revival not as an impossibility, but rather as a complex problem that science would eventually find ways to solve. Considering the current state of technology in 1962, he correctly predicted that science would continue to advance at an explosive rate over the next several decades, ultimately creating the sophisticated tools which would be needed to revive cryonics patients.
Over the course of his first lifetime, Ettinger had the unique pleasure of seeing many of the scientific advances he had predicted decades earlier become reality, further convincing him that the tools and techniques needed to realize his theory were only a matter of time. Ettinger was in the unique position of actually watching his theory coming to life in his own lifetime, and he wrote extensively on the subject of cryonics, clarifying the theory with each new scientific leap forward. Nanotechnology, in particular, has always been a key theoretical revival technique, and Ettinger was fortunate enough to see the first applications of its amazing potential.
Robert Ettinger was placed in cryostasis July 28, 2011 at the Cryonics Institute facility in Michigan at the age of 92. As a scientist, futurist and most of all, "The Original Cryonicist," Robert Ettinger and his works are the foundation and in many ways the soul of the cryonics movement.
To truly understand cryonics, Robert C. Ettinger's works are essential reading.
Complete list of all documents currently available on the CI web site.
Essential reading - the book that launched the cryonics movement in 1962.
Ettinger's 1972 follow up to The Prospect of Immortality
A prescient essay discussing the potential of nanotechnology for cryonics applications
Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics
To whom it may concern,
Cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor that seeks to preserve human beings, especially the human brain, by the best technology available. Future technologies for resuscitation can be envisioned that involve molecular repair by nanomedicine, highly advanced computation, detailed control of cell growth, and tissue regeneration.
With a view toward these developments, there is a credible possibility that cryonics performed under the best conditions achievable today can preserve sufficient neurological information to permit eventual restoration of a person to full health.
The rights of people who choose cryonics are important, and should be respected.
Sincerely (61 Signatories)
Signatories encompass all disciplines relevant to cryonics, including Biology, Cryobiology, Neuroscience, Physical Science, Nanotechnology and Computing, Ethics and Theology. [Signature date in brackets]
Gregory Benford, Ph.D.
(Physics, UC San Diego) Professor of Physics; University of California; Irvine, CA [3/24/04]
Alaxander Bolonkin, Ph.D.
(Leningrad Politechnic University) Professor, Moscow Aviation Institute; Senior Research Associate NASA Dryden Flight Research Center; Lecturer, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ [3/24/04]
Nick Bostrom, Ph.D.
Research Fellow; University of Oxford; Oxford, United Kingdom [3/25/04]
Kevin Q. Brown, Ph.D.
(Computer Science, Carnegie-Mellon) Member of Technical Staff; Lucent Bell Laboratories (retired); Stanhope, NJ [3/23/04]
Professor Manfred Clynes, Ph.D.
Lombardi Cancer Center; Department of Oncology and Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University; Washington, DC [3/28/04]
L. Stephen Coles, M.D., PhD
(RPI, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon University) Director, Supercentenarian Research Foundation Inglewood, California [10/7/06]
Daniel Crevier, Ph.D.
(MIT) President, Ophthalmos Systems Inc., Longueuil, Qc, Canada; Professor of Electrical Engineering (ret.), McGill University & École de Technologie Supérieure, Montreal, Canada. [4/7/05]
Antonei B. Csoka, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Pittsburgh Development Center, Magee-Womens Research Institute [9/14/05]
Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey, Ph.D.
Research Associate; University of Cambridge;Cambridge, United Kingdom [3/19/04]
Wesley M. Du Charme, Ph.D.
(Experimental Psychology, University of Michigan) author of Becoming Immortal, Rathdrum, Idaho [11/23/05]
João Pedro de Magalhães, Ph.D.
University of Namur; Namur, Belgium [3/22/04]
Thomas Donaldson, Ph.D.
Editor, Periastron; Founder, Institute for Neural Cryobiology; Canberra, Australia [3/22/04]
Christopher J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist; Suspended Animation Inc; Boca Raton, FL [3/19/04]
K. Eric Drexler, Ph.D.
Chairman of Foresight Institute; Palo Alto, CA [3/19/04]
Robert A. Freitas Jr., J.D.
Author, Nanomedicine Vols. I & II; Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Palo Alto, CA [3/27/04]
Mark Galecki, Ph.D.
(Mathematics, Univ of Tennessee), M.S. (Computer Science, Rutgers Univ), Senior System Software Engineer, SBS Technologies [11/23/05]
D. B. Ghare, Ph.D.
Principle Research Scientist, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India [5/24/04]
Ben Goertzel, Ph.D.
(Mathematics, Temple) Chief Scientific Officer, Biomind LLC; Columbia, MD [3/19/04]
Peter Gouras, M.D.
Professor of Ophthalmology, Columbia University; New York City, NY [3/19/04]
Amara L. Graps, Ph.D.
Researcher, Astrophysics; Adjunct Professor of Astronomy; Institute of Physics of the Interplanetary Space; American University of Rome (Italy) [3/22/04]
Raphael Haftka, Ph.D.
(UC San Diego) Distinguished Prof. U. of Florida; Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Gainesville, FL [3/22/04]
David A. Hall, M.D.
Dean of Education, World Health Medical School [11/23/05]
J. Storrs Hall, Ph.D.
Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Los Altos, CA
Fellow, Molecular Engineering Research Institute, Laporte, PA [3/26/04]
Robin Hanson, Ph.D.
(Social Science, Caltech) Assistant Professor (of Economics); George Mason University; Fairfax, VA [3/19/04]
Steven B. Harris, M.D.
President and Director of Research; Critical Care Research, Inc; Rancho Cucamonga, CA [3/19/04]
Michael D. Hartl, Ph.D.
(Physics, Harvard & Caltech) Visitor in Theoretical Astrophysics; California Institute of Technology; Pasadena, CA [3/19/04]
Henry R. Hirsch, Ph. D.
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1960) Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky College of Medicine [11/29/05]
Tad Hogg, Ph.D.
(Physics, Caltech and Stanford) research staff, HP Labs, Palo Alto, CA [10/10/05]
James J. Hughes, Ph.D.
Public Policy Studies Trinity College; Hartford, CT [3/25/04]
James R. Hughes, M.D., Ph.D.
ER Director of Meadows Regional Medical Center; Director of Medical Research & Development, Hilton Head Longevity Center, Savanah, GA [4/05/04]
Ravin Jain, M.D.
(Medicine, Baylor) Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA [3/31/04]
Subhash C. Kak, Ph.D.
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA [3/24/04]
Professor Bart Kosko, Ph.D.
Electrical Engineering Department; University of Southern California [3/19/04]
James B. Lewis, Ph.D.
(Chemistry, Harvard) Senior Research Investigator (retired); Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute; Seattle, WA [3/19/04]
Marc S. Lewis, Ph.D.
Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in Clinical Psychology. Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin of Clinical Psychology. [6/12/05]
Brad F. Mellon, STM, Ph.D.
Chair of the Ethics Committee; Frederick Mennonite Community; Frederick, PA [3/25/04]
Ralph C. Merkle, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Computing; Georgia Tech College of Computing; Director, GTISC (GA Tech Information Security Center); VP, Technology Assessment, Foresight Institute [3/19/04]
Marvin Minsky, Ph.D.
(Mathematics, Harvard & Princeton) MIT Media Lab and MIT AI Lab; Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; Professor of E.E. and C.S., M.I.T [3/19/04]
John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D.
(Chicago) D.Théol. (Strasbourg), LL.D. (Cardiff) Professor Emeritus of Law and Humanities, University of Luton, England [3/28/04]
Max More, Ph.D.
Chairman, Extropy Institute, Austin, TX [3/31/04]
Steve Omohundro, Ph.D.
(Physics, University of California at Berkeley) Computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana [6/08/04]
Mike O'Neal, Ph.D.
(Computer Science) Assoc. Professor and Computer Science Program Chair; Louisiana Tech Univ.;uston, LA [3/19/04]
Yuri Pichugin, Ph.D.
Former Senior Researcher, Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine; Kharkov, Ukraine [3/19/04]
Peter H. Proctor, M.D., Ph.D.
Independent Physician & Pharmacologist; Houston, Texas [5/02/04]
Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A.
Responsible for launching several satellite communications companies including Sirius and WorldSpace. Founder and CEO of United Therapeutics. [5/02/04]
Klaus H. Sames, M.D.
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Center of Experimental Medicine (CEM) Institute of Anatomy II: Experimental Morphology; Hamburg, Germany [3/25/04]
Anders Sandberg, Ph.D.
(Computational Neuroscience) Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University; Stockholm, Sweden [3/19/04]
Sergey V. Sheleg, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist, Alcor Life Extension Founcation; Scottsdale, AZ [8/11/05]
Stanley Shostak, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; University of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh, PA [3/19/04]
Rafal Smigrodzki, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, Gencia Company; Charlottesville VA [3/19/04]
David S. Stodolsky, Ph.D.
(Univ. of Cal., Irvine) Senior Scientist, Institute for Social Informatics [11/24/05]
Gregory Stock, Ph.D.
Director, Program on Medicine, Technology, and Society UCLA School of Public Health; Los Angeles, CA [3/24/04]
Charles Tandy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Humanities and Director Center for Interdisciplinary Philosophic Studies Fooyin University (Kaohsiung, Taiwan) [5/25/05]
Peter Toma, Ph.D.
President, Cosmolingua, Inc. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Inventor and Founder of SYSTRAN. Director of International Relations, Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Residences in Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and USA [5/24/05]
Mark A. Voelker, Ph.D.
(Optical Sciences, U. Arizona) Director of Bioengineering; BioTime, Inc.; Berkeley, CA [3/19/04]
Roy L. Walford, M.D.
Professor of Pathology, emeritus; UCLA School of Medicine; Los Angeles, CA [3/19/04]
Mark Walker, Ph.D.
Research Associate, Philosophy; Trinity College; University of Toronto (Canada) [3/19/04]
Michael D. West, Ph.D.
President, Chairman & Chief Executive Office; Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.; Worcester, MA [3/19/04]
Ronald F. White, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy; College of Mount St. Joseph; Cincinnati, OH [3/19/04]
James Wilsdon, Ph.D.
(Oxford University) Head of Strategy for Demos, an independent think-tank; London, England [5/04/04]
Brian Wowk, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist 21st Century Medicine, Inc.; Rancho Cucamonga, CA [3/19/04]
Selected Journal Articles Supporting Cryonics:
- First paper showing recovery of brain electrical activity after freezing to -20°C. Suda I, Kito K, Adachi C, in: Nature (1966, vol. 212), "Viability of long term frozen cat brain in vitro", pg. 268-270.
First paper to propose cryonics by neuropreservation: Martin G, in: Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1971, vol. 14), “Brief proposal on immortality: an interim solution”, pg. 339.
First paper showing recovery of a mammalian organ after cooling to -196°C (liquid nitrogen temperature) and subsequent transplantation: Hamilton R, Holst HI, Lehr HB, in: Journal of Surgical Research (1973, vol 14), "Successful preservation of canine small intestine by freezing", pg. 527-531.
First paper showing partial recovery of brain electrical activity after 7 years of frozen storage: Suda I, Kito K, Adachi C, in: Brain Research (1974, vol. 70), “Bioelectric discharges of isolated cat brain after revival from years of frozen storage", pg. 527-531.
First paper suggesting that nanotechnology could reverse freezing injury: Drexler KE, in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1981, vol. 78), "Molecular engineering: An approach to the development of general capabilities for molecular manipulation", pg. 5275-5278.
First paper showing that large organs can be cryopreserved without structural damage from ice: Fahy GM, MacFarlane DR, Angell CA, Meryman HT, in: Cryobiology (1984, vol. 21), "Vitrification as an approach to cryopreservation", pg. 407-426.
First paper showing that dogs can be recovered after three hours of total circulatory arrest (“clinical death”) at 0°C (32°F). This supports the reversibility of the hypothermic phase of cryonics: Haneda K, Thomas R, Sands MP, Breazeale DG, Dillard DH, in: Cryobiology (1986, vol. 23), "Whole body protection during three hours of total circulatory arrest: an experimental study", pg. 483-494.
First detailed discussion of the application of nanotechnology to reverse human cryopreservation: Merkle RC, in: Medical Hypotheses (1992, vol. 39), "The technical feasibility of cryonics", pg. 6-16.
First successful application of vitrification to a relatively large tissue of medical interest: Song YC, Khirabadi BS, Lightfoot F, Brockbank KG, Taylor MJ, in: Nature Biotechnology (2000, vol. 18), "Vitreous cryopreservation maintains the function of vascular grafts", pg. 296-299.
First report of the consistent survival of transplanted kidneys after cooling to and rewarming from -45°C: Fahy GM, Wowk B, Wu J, Phan J, Rasch C, Chang A, Zendejas E, in: Cryobiology (2004 vol. 48), "Cryopreservation of organs by vitrification: perspectives and recent advances", pg. 157-78.
First paper showing good ultrastructure of vitrified/rewarmed mammalian brains and the reversibility of prolonged warm ischemic injury in dogs without subsequent neurological deficits, and setting forth the present scientific evidence in support of cryonics: Lemler J, Harris SB, Platt C, Huffman T, in: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, (2004 vol. 1019), “The Arrest of Biological Time as a Bridge to Engineered Negligible Senescence", pg. 559-563.
First discussion of cryonics in a major medical journal: Whetstine L, Streat S, Darwin M, Crippen D, in: Critical Care, (2005, vol. 9), "Pro/con ethics debate: When is dead really dead?", in press.
- First demonstration that both the viability and structure of complex neural networks can be well preserved by vitrification: Pichugin Y, Fahy GM, Morin R, in: Cryobiology, (2006, vol. 52), "Cryopreservation of rat hippocampal slices by vitrification", pg. 228-240. PDF here.
- Rigorous demonstration of memory retention following profound hypothermia, confirming theoretical expectation and clinical experience. Alam HB, Bowyer MW, Koustova E, Gushchin V, Anderson D, Stanton K, Kreishman P, Cryer CM, Hancock T, Rhee P, in: Surgery (2002, vol. 132), "Learning and memory is preserved after induced asanguineous hyperkalemic hypothermic arrest in a swine model of traumatic exsanguination", pg. 278-88.
Note: Signing of this letter does not imply endorsement of any particular cryonics organization or its practices. Opinions on how much cerebral ischemic injury (delay after clinical death) and preservation injury may be reversible in the future vary widely among signatories.
Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice
Published in REJUVENATION RESEARCH Volume 11, Number 2, 2008
Benjamin P. Best for the Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Mchigan
Very low temperatures create conditions that can preserve tissue for centuries, possibly including the neurological basis of the human mind. Through a process called vitrification, brain tissue can be cooled to cryogenic temperatures without ice formation. Damage associated with this process is theoretically reversible in the same sense that rejuvenation is theoretically possible by specific foreseeable technology. Injury to the brain due to stopped blood flow is now known to result from a complex series of processes that take much longer to run to completion than the six minute limit of ordinary resuscitation technology. Reperfusion beyond the six minute limit primarily damages blood vessels rather than brain tissue. Apoptosis of neurons takes many hours. This creates a window of opportunity between legal death and irretrievable loss of life for human and animal subjects to be cryopreserved with possibility of future resuscitation. Under ideal conditions, the time interval between onset of clinical death and beginning of cryonics procedures can be reduced to less than a minute, but much longer delays could also be compatible with ultimate survival. Although the evidence that cryonics may work is indirect, indirect evidence is essential in many areas of science. If complex changes due to aging are reversible at some future date, then similarly complex changes due to stopped blood flow and cryopreservation may also be reversible, with life-saving results for anyone with medical needs that exceed current capabilities.
(continues) Read full article
"Declaration of a leading cryobiologist"
This was excerpted from court records, and retyped, with some changes of format. Original document is on file in reference to Case No. 191277, Kent v. Coroner, Superior Court, County of Riverside, California, Appendix of Declarations, dated Feb. 1, 1988. The cryonics people won the case, and the coroner was enjoined against interfering with the cryonics operation.
For professional reasons, the identity of the author of this declaration has been withheld from this web site.
What then would be required for the brain to be restorable? First, the brain must be preserved well enough to repair, i.e. it must be possible today to preserve with some reasonable fidelity the basic biological components of the brains of humans shortly after these humans have clinically died. Second, repair technology must be available to carry out any repairs required.
The two indispensable premises of cryonics, then, are preservation and the development of advanced molecular scale (nanotechnological) biological repair devices. Both premises are fully open to scientific scrutiny and falsification by experiment or calculation and, in fact, both seem at present to withstand such scrutiny. The more detailed declaration testimony which follows documents only the results of scientific tests of the premise of preservation. I understand that K. Eric Drexler will address, in broad scope, the issue of biological repair. To return to the point: If both premises are valid then, assuming the procedure is done under reasonable conditions and non-scientific problems do not intervene, cryonics should work to at least some extent.
Cryobiology and Preservation. It can be stated quite firmly that cell bodies, cell membranes, synapses, mitochondria, general axon and dendroid patterns, metabolites such as neurotransmitters, chemical constituents such as proteins and nucleic acids, and general brain architecture are preserved reasonably well or excellently with current techniques. The brain can withstand severe mechanical distortion by ice without impairment of subsequent cognition, and a glycerol concentration of 5.15M can be shown to limit ice formation to quantities currently thought to be consistent with good function or recovery of the intact brain. Information is lacking about the ultrastructure of frozen thawed brains, but much can be inferred from the customary observation of a high level of functional recovery of frozen thawed brains, brain tissue or brain cells which depends on a high degree of both local and long range ultrastructural integrity. Absolute proof is lacking about the quality of preservation in each and every brain region, since not all brain regions have been examined by neurobiologists to date. However, in my experience, no clear differences in preservation quality from one brain region to another have ever been apparent to me while examining entire cross-sections of the frozen - thawed brain at many different levels.