Using a new technique, scientists have cryonically frozen a rabbit’s brain and successfully recovered it in what is described as “near-perfect condition.” Aside from winning these researchers a cash prize for developing the best way to do this, what does this mean for the future of cryonically preserving humans and someday bringing them back to life?
According to a report in the latest edition of Cryobiology, the technique is called Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation and was developed by 21st Century Medicine, a company dedicated to developing protection, preservation and storage systems for human organs.
Here’s how Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation worked. Glutaraldehyde was inserted into the inside of the rabbit’s brain to stabilize in and prevent it from decaying. As it was cooled over four hours to -130 Celsius (-210 degrees Fahrenheit), a cryoprotectant liquid was added to the brain which kept the neurons, synapses and cell membranes protected from damage – the number one reason why cryopreservation has never before been successful on mammals.
After the frozen brain was inspected by judges from the Brain Preservation Foundation, it was slowly reheated and the cryoprotectant chemicals were flushed out. When it was completely thawed, the brain was inspected again by the judges. PhD neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth was one of them.
Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain. Simply amazing given that I held in my hand this very same brain when it was vitrified glassy solid.
As you may have figured out, the brain was sliced and inspected, not implanted into a rabbit to be reanimated. However, aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation is still a major breakthrough and deemed worthy of the foundation’s $26,735 Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize.
What does this mean for human cryonics? The current techniques for freezing humans have been criticized because they dehydrate the brain and crush the neurons – a condition that cryonics businesses hoped would be solved in the future before the body was thawed. 21st Century Medicine’s technique is the first to return the brain to “near-perfect” condition.
The Brain Preservation Foundation is offering over $100,000 to any neuroscientist who can restore a cyronically frozen human brain. 21st Century Medicine is in the competition with Shawn Mikula, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany who is testing his chemical fixing process on mouse brains.
The winner gets the prize and a chance to rewrite the ending of Frankenstein.