Dr Stephen Coles Becomes Alcor’s 131st Patient

Dr Stephen Coles, Alcor member A-2786, was pronounced legally dead on the morning of Wednesday December 3, 2014 in Scottsdale, AZ at the age of 73. Coles, an unusual brain-only patient, was cryopreserved the same day, becoming Alcor’s 131st patient.

Coles was a researcher and a spokesperson on supercentenarians and on aging. He was co-founder and executive director of the Gerontology Research Group, a visiting scholar in the computer science department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an assistant researcher in the Department of Surgery, at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Coles had discussed cryonics with several knowledgeable individuals but had rejected it, apparently on the grounds that cracking would make revival unlikely. Further conversations and discussions of the evidence changed his mind late this year.

Dr Coles suffered from pancreatic cancer. In November he entered a hospital in Las Vegas because the cancer had compromised his immune system, allowing bacterial pneumonia to develop, which resulted in serious pulmonary edema. During this time, he decided that cryonics did in fact give him a chance and that he wanted to do it. However, he lacked funding. An unusual agreement was worked out that allowed him to be cryopreserved with only a small fraction of the cost provided by donations and the rest covered by Alcor. In return, Coles agreed to allow Alcor to perform unusual procedures (including removal of his brain from the skull) and research (including tissue biopsy and examination for ice formation and cracking).

In mid-October, a meeting of over 20 top doctors at UCLA resulted in the conclusion that he was not a candidate for any further interventions, and that his prognosis was clinical death in 3-6 months. Coles’ own view was that he had only about two weeks to live – an estimate that proved quite accurate. Because of this, Coles with the support and company of his wife Natalie, wanted to relocate to a hospice in Scottsdale as quickly as possible.

Following a three-day standby, Coles was pronounced at 9:50am on December 3, 2014. Stabilization and cooling was performed on-site prior to a short drive to Alcor. On arrival at Alcor, nasopharyngeal temperature readings were 16.2 and 17.7 C. Perfusion was completed at 4:05 pm and, after last minute discussions of the procedure for brain removal and biopsy, initial preparation of the cephalon was done. The unexpectedly early clinical death and the unfamiliar nature of the procedures in this case created several major challenges, with procedures being revised even as the surgery and perfusion were underway. A local forensic pathologist was hired to come in and perform a craniotomy after the neuro perfusion was complete. At 5:32 pm, biopsy samples were extracted from three locations on each side of the midline of the brain. Cool down was initiated at 5:50 pm.

External examination of the brain will be undertaken, along with a CT scan. We aim to perform a CT scan at the intermediate temperature storage temperature of -140 C. The biopsy samples will be examined using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).