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Cryonics – Staying Chill

Cryonics – Staying Chill Long live the deep-frozen ones! – MIND(s that filled) THE GAP(s) [XXII]

Hey there, thrill-seekers! Ever wondered about outsmarting the ultimate opponent – death itself? Enter the fascinating realm where science, hope, and the human ambition collide – welcome to the extraordinary world of cheating the Grim Reaper! At some stage in our lives, most of us encountered the science fiction plot when somebody hops into a sealed chamber to freeze their body, envisioning a future revival in an entirely new world. Surprisingly, this scenario isn’t merely an exaggerated tale, as people have actually been undergoing cryopreservation since the 1960s!

The first human being to be cryonically preserved

Let’s circle back to 1893, the birth year of James Hiram Bedford, a distinguished psychology professor at the University of California, who authored multiple books focusing on career guidance. Overall, James led a life marked by success and achievement, but unfortunately, when Hiram was in his late 60s, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which eventually spread to his lungs, culminating in his passing at the age of 73. Now, you may be wondering “Where is the part where he becomes cryopreserved?”. Well, prior to his death, Robert Nelson, the president of the Cryonics Society of California, publicized the chance for the first person interested and in need of cryogenic suspension to be frozen at no cost, but nobody volunteered. In 1966, a year later, in the absence of any available treatment and confronting impending mortality, James Bedford approached Nelson, being willing to take part in the experiment. In 1967, Nelson and his cryonic suspension team arrived soon after Bedford’s death. He was then placed in a capsule filled with liquid nitrogen, preserving his body at an extremely low temperature (below -130 degrees Celsius), hoping for future revival with advanced medical technology.

Ok, but scientifically speaking, what is the logic behind cryopreservation?

So far, I think we all agree that James had a plan to outsmart death! But is it really that simple? Well, imagine freezing something so delicate that even the tiniest ice crystal could be as destructive as an elephant in a china shop! Cryopreservation, the art of freezing biological materials, is like trying to tuck a fragile butterfly into a snowflake blanket without harming its graceful wings. Decreasing an organism’s temperature also decreases its cellular function. Keeping the cells intact during freezing requires a delicate balance. When it gets cold, water in cells freezes into ice. But ice is troublesome. It expands and moves around, sometimes harming cells. In other words, when exposed to extremely low temperatures, our cells face destruction, undergoing a harmful process known as osmotic shock. Now, I bet you’re wondering, “So what’s the solution?”. You’ll get annoyed when I tell you that our cells are very choosy! They don’t like being frozen without special treatment. In the world of cryopreservation, vitrification is the VIP ticket. This process offers the advantages of cryopreservation while avoiding the harm caused by ice crystals. Instead of traditional freezing where ice can damage delicate cells, vitrification rapidly cools tissues while using special protective substances called cryoprotectants. By sidestepping the drama, vitrification keeps things intact, letting them take a chilly nap without any harm. It’s like giving a cozy winter jacket to our cells, theoretically raising the likelihood that the thawing is successful and function can be restored.

Was the cryopreservation process of James Bedford a success?

It will likely dampen your enthusiasm, but the most probable answer is no. Vitrification wasn’t even possible at that time, which further limits the chances of him being revived in the future. Firstly, humans are way more complicated than small things like cells or tissues. Making sure the freezing process works perfectly throughout an entire body without damaging it is very difficult. Then there’s the problem of getting the cryoprotectant agents used to freeze evenly into every part of the body. Some areas might not get enough protection, which could mess things up when they’re frozen. Also, these chemicals can be harmful in big amounts. Finding the right balance to protect the whole body without causing harm is tricky. Plus, even if someone could be perfectly frozen, bringing them back to life isn’t something we know how to do. We’re not even close to understanding how to safely unfreeze and restore a person while making sure everything works like it should.

Tracing cryopreservation’s beginnings…

Well, Robert Nelson is not the pioneer of cryonics. In fact, the idea of preserving biological materials through freezing was proposed by Robert Ettinger in his book “The Prospect of Immortality”, published in 1964. He suggested that freezing bodies or just their heads could potentially preserve them until future technology might be able to revive and cure whatever caused their death. Ettinger’s fascination with cryopreservation arose from his interest in science fiction, particularly stories about suspended animation and immortality. His ideas sparked significant interest and controversy within the scientific community and the public. Maybe you won’t believe it, but cryonics aligns with the beliefs of Christianity and other religions that cherish human life’s sanctity (even Christian theologian John Warwick Montgomery expressed support for cryonics in his writing). Robert founded the Cryonics Institute in 1976, an organization dedicated to freezing and storing human bodies and pets in cryogenic tanks in the hopes of future revival. But get this—Ettinger wasn’t the first one to toy with this idea. Way before him, similar ideas were discussed by James Lovelock and Christopher Polge. However, Ettinger’s advocacy and popularization of cryonics made him widely known as the father of cryopreservation in the modern era.

The pricetag of immortality

Just like investing in stocks or property, cryopreservation could be seen as an economic investment in human potential. Perhaps it may seem crazy to you, but currently there are companies that offer cryopreservation services, such as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Cryonics Institute (this is where James underwent the cryopreservation process) and KrioRus. Moreover, it’s important to mention that there are two types of cryopreservation: neurocryopreservation and whole body cryopreservation. Whole body cryopreservation preserves the entire body, including the brain and organs, as advocates argue it enhances the chance of retaining vital information and structures needed for potential revival. On the flip side, neurocryopreservation, focusing solely on the brain, aims to preserve memories, identity, and consciousness, with the goal of potential revival and transferring consciousness into a new body using future technology. Remember that getting preserved for the future comes with a price tag! Think somewhere between the range of $28,000 to $200,000, and that’s just the beginning. It all depends on where you go, what you want (your whole self or just the brain), plus the extra fees for transport and long-term storage. As of now, approximately 500 individuals have undergone cryogenic preservation following legal death, with the majority located in the United States. Cryostorage yourself isn’t cheap, but hey, it’s an investment in a different kind of tomorrow!


With that being said, James Bedford’s choice sparked the modern era of cryonics, igniting discussions about the possibilities of life extension. In the world of assisted reproductive technologies, tissue and organ transplantation, and the preservation of biological samples, cryonics isn’t just a sci-fi dream—it’s a potential reality waiting to be unfrozen! Furthermore, there are certain animal species that have the capability to endure freezing temperatures during a cold winter, entering suspended states that are little different from death, and which can restore normal functioning. They naturally freeze entirely, but sugars in their blood function as a natural antifreeze, preventing their blood from solidifying and allowing circulation even while they are frozen solid. The science is advancing rapidly, and who knows, maybe in the future, not only will we succeed in overcoming mortality, but we’ll also use it to populate other planets and overcome the long time spans of interstellar travel.

Photo source: PxHere.


(No date) Analysis | want to avoid death? maybe cryonics isn’t crazy. Available at:

Author links open overlay panelRoger Gosden Ph.D. and ObjectiveTo outline the history of cryopreservation technology and its contributions to reproductive medicine (2011) Cryopreservation: A cold look at technology for Fertility Preservation, Fertility and Sterility. Available at:

FAQ (2023) The Cryonics Institute. Available at:

James Bedford (2023) Wikipedia. Available at:

Jang, T.H. et al. (2017) Cryopreservation and its clinical applications, Integrative medicine research. Available at:

Who was the first cryogenically preserved human? (no date) RSS. Available at:



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