In 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, an 87-year-old California man was wheeled into an operating room outside Phoenix as the nation reinvented its medical order.
The operating room, part of the Alco Life Extension Fund, is located in an industrial park near the airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. The man’s body was covered in dry ice and was about to be “frozen,” which is to be kept at extremely low temperatures in the hope that one day, perhaps decades from now, perhaps centuries from now, life will continue.
| | opportunity arrival
From Moscow to Phoenix, from China to rural Australia, several of the biggest players in the cryonics industry say the pandemic is bringing attention to the industry. Cryonics has long been viewed with suspicion, even hostility, by both the medical and legal establishment, which regards it as pseudoscience or outright fraud.
Because of the outbreak, Arco stopped injecting all parts of the body with protective agents designed to prevent freezing damage. Alco, which entered the cryonics business in 1972, updated its rules in 2020 to inject only medical-grade cryo-protective fluid into frozen brains. This means that the area below the neck of the frozen person is completely unprotected. When the frozen person is kept in an aluminum tube filled with liquid nitrogen at -196 ° C, the cell membrane is riddled with ice crystals that form between the cells.
Max Moore, former president of Arco, said that in the future, scientists should be able to repair the damage caused by direct freezing. “I don’t really understand why anyone would want to preserve their aging body,” Moore said. It may be easier to recreate a body in the future.” “What really matters to me is here,” he said, pointing to his head during a videoconference. My personality traits and memories are all here, and the rest is replaceable.”
Cryonics supporters argue that death is a gradual receding process, not just the moment the heart stops, and that life could therefore be “frozen” with a quick intervention, turning cryopreservation into an ambulance to the future.
They acknowledge that future science may not actually be able to resurrect frozen bodies, but they still hold out a glimmer of hope that it’s better than going back to dust.
The pandemic has brought people closer to death and increased the number of people willing to pay $200,000 for cryonics. “Maybe the epidemic has made people realize that life is the most precious asset.” “They want to invest in their future,” said Valeria Udalova, general manager of The Russian Cryonics Company. Both the company and Arco have recently been inundated with inquiries about cryonics.
| outlook |
In the more than 50 years since cryonics was introduced, about 500 people have been frozen worldwide, the vast majority in the United States.
At the time of writing, there were 206 cryonics at the Cryonics Institute in the United States, and arco had 182 cryonics, or brain nervous systems, ranging in age from 2 to 101 years. The Russian Cryonics Company has about 80 cryonics, and other small institutions also keep some.
China’s first frozen man appeared in 2017. China Yinfeng Life Science Research Institute currently has ten frozen people. Aaron Drake, director of Yinfeng Clinical Services and head of The clinical response group at Arco, who moved to China seven years ago, said it took Arco three times as long to reach yinfeng’s current size.
Yinfeng’s prices, like Arco’s, are among the highest in the industry, at $200,000 for frozen human bodies and $80,000 for frozen brain nerves.
So far, Arco has 1,385 signed customers from 34 countries around the world, Yinfeng has 60 clients and Russian Cryonics has 400 clients from 20 countries.
“Yinfeng is likely to surpass the CRyonics companies in the US, and yinfeng can,” drake said.
China is likely to dominate the cryonics industry, not just because of its 1.4 billion people, but because of its attitude towards cryonics. Yinfeng is the only cryonics facility that has been embraced by mainstream researchers, rather than marginalized. “Yinfeng is well integrated into the healthcare system and has partnerships with research institutions and universities,” drake said.
Arco’s operating room
The freezer is kept in an aluminum tube filled with liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius.
Cryonics is a far cry from the situation in Russia. Yevgeny Alexandrov, chairman of the Anti-pseudoscience committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said cryonics was “completely commercial and has no scientific basis”.
The American Society for Cryobiology studies the effects of low temperature on living tissue used in techniques such as in vitro fertilization. But the association passed a rule in the 1980s threatening to expel any member who “participated in the freezing of dead persons for the purpose of future resurrection”.
Arthur Lowe, a former president of the association, once wrote: “To believe that a frozen human body can be thawed out and revived is as absurd as believing that you can turn a hamburger back into a cow.” Another former chairman said: “Cryonics is more fraud than faith or science.”
However, the association has softened its stance, and while it still considers cryonics “speculative or aspirational rather than scientific”, it no longer prohibits its members from participating.
The medical and scientific establishment, which often clashed with Arco’s rapid-response team, is less hostile to cryonics than it was five years ago, Mr. Moore said. “Most often, we try to explain what we do to hospital staff and they say, ‘What are you doing? You can’t even think about it here ‘and stop us from going in. So, we usually have to wait outside, which will waste time and affect our work. But now that’s not going to happen. Many of you probably know something about cryonics from watching a science Channel documentary. Some people say it sounds’ amazing ‘and they’ve never seen it before.”
Peter Solarkidd, a former exxonMobil sales executive, is now the founder of Australia’s start-up Southern Cryonics. Mr. Solajide said he was grateful that Australia was “very open to new things.” “I think cryonics should be accepted in Australia.” “The health department has been very positive and has been very helpful,” he said.
| | cultural differences
The biggest difference between Yinfeng and other cryonics institutions is that yinfeng is willing to freeze patients even if they do not express their wishes before they die.
But in western countries, this is considered an important ethical issue. For some people, who may have accepted their fate before they died, to be awakened decades or centuries later in a laboratory is nothing short of a shock.
“We don’t accept applications from third parties. If someone called and said ‘Uncle Fred is dying and I want to freeze him’ we would ask a series of questions, but even then we wouldn’t necessarily agree.” “Is there any evidence that Uncle Fred was interested in cryonics? If not, we would not accept such an application. Is there anyone in the family who is very opposed to cryonics? We don’t want to get sued over this.”
Cryonics companies struggle with The American tendency to litigate, big or small. And it’s true that relatives of customers have filed lawsuits to try to block expensive freezing procedures.
“There will be relatives who think they don’t have to worry about the will of the deceased because they’re gone and they can just take the money.” “It’s amazing how often people actually do this,” Mr. Moore said.
One client’s relatives had his body embalmed and buried in Europe without informing Him of his death. By the time Arco found out, it’d been a year. Arco confirmed that the contract signed at the time stated that the client wanted to be frozen no matter how much time had passed, and the company sought a court order to ship the body back to Arizona.
‘It’s really different from eastern culture,’ Drake says. “In China, it’s mainly family members who make decisions, just like they make decisions in a hospital about what treatment to give a patient. If grandpa gets cancer, his family may not even tell him what he has, but decide how to continue treatment. So the family may decide together that grandpa is going to be frozen, but the person who is actually going to experience it is not involved.”
‘Russia’s mindset is somewhere between China and the West,’ Ms. Udalova said. People who have left no written evidence before their death can be frozen as long as they provide two witnesses.
This may explain why there is a large gender gap between Russian and Western frozen people. Among arco’s freezers, men outnumber women three to one; In Australia, there are far more men than women; But Russian cryonics is roughly evenly split between men and women.
“It has to do with Russian culture,” Udalova explained. “Most of our clients are men, but they usually apply to freeze their mothers first because Russian men are raised by their mothers.” When those male clients are also frozen, she said, the male share will increase.
The Chinese, like the Russians, want to embark on a new journey with their mothers, and don’t understand American men wanting to go into the future alone. “In the U.S., we have people who come with their families, but most of them come on their own,” Drake said. That may not go down well with the Chinese. In China, the applications that have been accepted so far are registered by relatives for family members who are about to die.”
And a growing number of people in the U.S. are spending tens of thousands of dollars to freeze their pets, depending on their size. “If it’s a frozen horse, it’s completely different from freezing a cat’s brain.” “We now get more applications for frozen pets than we do for humans,” Moore said. Freezing dogs is fine, but freezing cats is a bit more difficult because the smaller the animal, the smaller the blood vessels.”
Cryonics also currently freezes cats and dogs, as well as five hamsters, two rabbits and a silk mouse.
| | after thawing
To help people get back to normal after a future thaw, many cryonics companies also keep keepsakes, “memory books” and CDS to help them refresh their memories or to flip through as they reminisce about the past. Mr. Arco uses a Salt mine in Kansas to store the items and is considering setting up a personal fund to cover his clients’ living expenses once they are thawed.