Should I die if it all goes wrong

Great idea! What happened to it?Cryopreservation holds the promise of life after death

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation is one of three organizations in the United States that offer people the option of using cold to conserve their bodies after death. In a promotional video, Max More, the former president of the foundation, explains what happens when a customer is dying: "As soon as we receive an emergency message, we send our standby team out. After the person has been declared clinically dead, our people lay down Come on."

The emergency team will then immediately begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation and begin using ice to cool the body. Then the dead person is brought to the treatment center in Arizona, where the actual procedure begins. The preservation and storage of a whole body costs at least 180,000 euros, the storage costs per year are around 169 euros.

If you want to save money, you just freeze your brain

At the equivalent of a good 70,000 US euros, it is much cheaper to just preserve the brain with or without a skull. Those who rely on it, however, have to trust that when they are raised from the dead, a cloned body is available immediately, into which the brain can then be implanted.

With whole-body preservation, the chest is first opened to gain access to the central blood vessels in the heart, explains Max More: "We connect these to our heat exchanger and the perfusion machine. The goal is to remove the blood and other body fluids as quickly as possible Rinse it out of the body and replace it with an antifreeze. With this we want to prevent the formation of ice crystals. " Because the pointed ice crystals would destroy the body cells.

An anti-freeze solution replaces body fluids

The corpse is vitrified by the antifreeze: the liquid in it turns into a glass-like state when it cools down, without forming crystals. Once the procedure is complete, the bodies or heads of the deceased are kept in containers for decades at minus 160 degrees Celsius. At the end of May 2020, 177 patients were cryopreserved at Alcor.

Frozen bodies in these tanks are waiting to be revived one day. (Douglas Golner / Cryonics Institute)

The number one customer was James H. Bedford, who was put into storage on January 12, 1967 - more than 50 years ago. Then as now, time is the decisive factor. After officially determined death, the decomposition processes in the body must be stopped as quickly as possible by cooling. But that's not that easy, says Klaus Sames, gerontologist and former anatomy professor from Hamburg and member of the German Society for Biostasis.

"Today in Germany we do not have the opportunity to intervene immediately after death because our funeral inspection laws stipulate that corpse stains must first be present. It takes about twenty minutes at least until these become visible. By then, severe damage has already occurred and we can then only that which is then still available from this person to be passed on to the biostasis. "

Everything has to happen quickly after death

The German Society for Biostasis wants to provide its members with the best possible first aid in the event of death, so that their corpses survive the transfer to a cryonics institute in America or Russia as intact as possible. Klaus Sames himself would also like to be frozen and already signed a contract with the Cryonics Institute in Detroit in 1994. The costs at that time were 50,000 Deutschmarks. Today it is hardly more expensive, explains Dennis Kowalski, the company's president in Michigan: "Around 2,000 people have signed a contract with us. We have now conserved 180 people, which makes us the largest cryonics company at the moment. In addition, our prices are US 28,000 -Dollars affordable. "

Cryopreservation - a bet on the future

The Cryonics Institute is a non-profit organization, all employees must also be members. As a result, Dennis Kowalski, like his family, will be frozen in Clinton Township after his death. Of course, theoretically it is better to freeze yourself in the best of health - before vital organs fail. But that is not possible by law and nobody wants that, says Kowalski. After all, it is assumed that medical progress is so rapid that, after a revitalization, in a few decades you could, for example, defeat the cancer that once cost your life.

Dennis Kowalski, President of the Cryonics Institute (Douglas Golner / Cryonics Institute) "If someone said 100 years ago, imagine that you can resuscitate people with an electric shock, 'it would have sounded like Frankenstein! The same goes for organ transplants. In the past it would have sounded macabre or strange to suggest cutting open corpses, removing their organs and inserting them into other people so that they could survive. Today this is normal and many people around the world benefit from this technology.

Freezing is already standard for egg and sperm cells

Egg cells or sperm are already frozen today and stored in liquid nitrogen until they are needed. Thawing works without any problems, emphasizes Dennis Kowalski. But bringing a whole body or a brain back to life would of course be much more complicated - and undesirable side effects cannot be ruled out. There are therefore plenty of critics of cryopreservation. The reproductive and regenerative biologist Stefan Schlatt from the University of M√ľnster considers cryonics to be impracticable. The blood-brain barrier is too sensitive and would not survive the freezing. Other critics describe the freezing and thawing of people as a fantasy or a dream of the future - but that is exactly what proponents think it is: a dream of the future.

"If it goes wrong I'm still dead"

Who could be interested in resuscitating frozen corpses in 50 or 100 years, however, remains just as unclear as the question of who will then pay for their treatment or - if everything goes well - for their livelihood. The emeritus professor Klaus Sames, who himself did a long research in the field of cryonics, is not frightened by this uncertainty. He is over 80 and assumes that after his death he will be on hold for around a hundred years before a resuscitation is possible: "Since this opportunity exists, there is nothing wrong with seizing it. If it goes wrong, I'm still dead. But it doesn't cost me anything except the money that I can't take with me anyway. "