NEWS
10/04/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 10/04/2016 01:12 EDT

Some facts about cryonic preservation

Here are some facts about cryonics, the process of freezing the body after death in the hope that scientific advances will allow a person to be "re-animated" in the future:

HOW IT'S DONE:

As soon as possible after a person is declared legally dead, the body is cooled in an ice bath and hooked up to a  machine, known as a "thumper," to artificially restore blood circulation and breathing while blood thinners and other drugs are administered intravenously to protect the brain from lack of oxygen.

Blood and other fluids are subsequently drained from the body and replaced with a cocktail of vitrification, or antifreeze-like agents, to prevent the formation of damaging ice crystals in cells and tissues.

The body is then further cooled before being suspended in a tank of liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees C.

WHO DOES IT:

There are two major non-profit cryopreservation facilities in the U.S. that Canadians can join:

The Cryonics Institute facility near Detroit has cryopreserved about 135 people and 100 pets, mostly dogs, cats and birds. Human cryopreservation costs $28,000. Most people pay for the service through life insurance policies.  

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. will preserve the head and brain — called a "neuro," for US$80,000. Whole-body preservation costs US$200,000. The company has cryopreserved more than 135  "patients" and has more than 1,000 members signed up for its after-death service. 

Its most famous "client" is former Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, whose head was suspended in liquid nitrogen in 2002 after his death at 83.

WHERE THE SCIENCE IS:

It's not clear if current cryo techniques maintain the pristine neurocircuitry of the brain that would allow a person to be brought back to life, a feat that even cryonicists admit could take many decades to master, if not hundreds of years, if it is possible at all.

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Online:

Cryonics Institute: http://www.cryonics.org/

Alcor Life Extension Foundation: http://www.alcor.org/

Brain Preservation Foundation: http://www.brainpreservation.org/

Lifespan Society of B.C.: http://www.lifespanbc.ca/  

The Canadian Press