Cryopreservation Has 99 Cadavers In A Hopeful 'Deep-Freeze' In Michigan [VIDEO]

By Gabrielle Jonas on April 10, 2014 4:08 PM EDT

Cryopreservation depends on the use of liquid nitrogen to keep the body cold without freezing it to death, rather, re-death.
Cryopreservation depends on the use of liquid nitrogen to keep the body cold without freezing it to death, rather, re-death.

There's about 99 dead people being cryopreserved in tanks of liquid nitrogen in Clinton Township, Michigan. Technically, they're not being frozen, but, "vitrified," -- an ice-free process in which more than 60 percent of the water inside cells is replaced with chemicals. Cryopreservation involves putting a recently-deceased body in sub-zero temperatures to halt cells from further degradation. Robert Ettinger, author of The Prospect of Immortality helped popularize the notion of cyropreservation.

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We Will Live Again is a 12-minute long documentary shown at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival about the Cryonics Institute, where dead humans and pets, as well as DNA samples and tissues are cryopreserved in the hope that furture medical developments can help revive or even clone them.

CI recommends that the funeral directors of its clients spring into action as soon as transporting them to the funeral home: Enroute, they should apply CPR, either manually, or with an Ambu-Pump or Thumper which the CI member should have purchased before death "for the funeral director to have on hand," according to its website. This keeps oxygenated blood -- along with the anti-coagulant heparin to prevent clotting" -- circulating through the body.

Ideally, the CI insists that the only its own funeral director conduct perfusion with heparin, but has special procedures in place for customers who could die unexpectedly out-of-state, asking funeral directors there to "emphasize prompt cooling to ice-water temperature and rapid shipment."

The price? A requisite lifetime membership costs $1,250 for a basic cryopreservation for $28,000, usually by making CI the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, according to the its website. Other close family members can join for an additional $625. Paying the membership on a yearly basis for $120, ups the cost of a basic cryopreservation to $35,000. That doesn't include the cost of preparation or shipment by a funeral director.

The CI's optimism about reviving people from death extends beyond bringing the people back to life from cryopreservation. "In some far-future scenarios it will be possible to reconstruct people from artifacts, such as the memories of you that are found in other people who have been reanimated and the physical records of your life, with DNA augmenting the process - although this is extreme science-fiction," the website acknowledges.

How likely is it that cryopreservation and its adjunct, "reanimation," could bring back the 99-plus humans that it has? In a 1997 study at Kagoshima University, Japan, veterinarian anatomists repeatedly froze and thawed golden hamster liver, kidney, sperm, and testis, and incubated others in hot water baths. The size of the sperm genomic DNA hardly changed after freezing-thawing treatment, but the DNA size of the other three tissues were gradually reduced with the increasing number of freezing-thawing cycles. High temperature treatment damaged not the DNA of all the cells.

Those results may suggest that when reviving cadavers, temperatures shouldn't be too hot, or, they could "die" all over again.

We Will Live Again from Brooklyn Underground Films on Vimeo.

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