Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Does cryonics mean I have to change the way I live?

Q: I enjoy activities that are fun but maybe dangerous sometimes, like mount climbing, scuba diving, and wilderness exploration. I understand that these activities could cause me to die in a place where I may not be retrieved in time for a good cryopreservation, or at all. Would signing up for cryonics mean that I must change the way I live?

A: Having cryo arrangements actually does NOT require you to avoid risks. You can live exactly as you did before. You may decide to change some aspects of how you live. You may instead decide to live the same way but with a backup plan in place (cryopreservation should all else fail).

If you are thinking of physically risky activities (riskier than driving a car), it’s true that a fatal accident could damage you in a way that could never be fully repaired in the future. If you fall from a motorcycle or a mountain, you may suffer loss of brain structure (not simply loss of function). If you have a fatal accident (or heart attack or stroke) while hiking in remote wilderness beyond anyone’s easy reach, it may not be possible to cryopreserve you well or at all. In fact, anyone who suffers legal death by misadventure will be a Coroner’s case. But does it make sense to pass on cryonics because you want to take some risks? You don’t say you won’t wear a seat belt because you sometimes go mountain climbing, right?

Even for the less adventurous, this kind of disastrous outcome is always possible in today’s circumstances. There are car crashes, suicides, homicides, airplane crashes (occasionally), and falls from roofs. But put the risk in perspective. The fact is that you’re more likely to die of a disease. Cryonics is far more likely to provide a promising path forward in those cases.

You might decide to take fewer physical risks over time because you are not as physically resilient or because you now think you have more to lose. So do others with whom you interact.) It’s possible that the act of making cryopreservation arrangements encourages you to think about your life in more long-term ways. That may or may not lead you to pull back on stimulating but risky activities. Any change will be a choice you will make based on what you understand at the time.

So, we can’t know whether or not you decide to do fewer things that you find fun now. But we can say that signing up for cryonics won’t stop you from enjoying the wilder parts of your life. For you, those activities may be a large part of why you want to live longer.

Work out your cryo-brain with the Q2 2020 issue of Cryonics magazine

Looking for a cryonics-laden brain workout? Check out the Q2 2020 issue of Cryonics. The single weightiest piece in this issue is “Mathematics and Modeling in Cryonics: Some Historical Highlights” by R. Michael Perry and Aschwin de Wolf. If you find yourself arguing with a critic who says cryonics is based on wishful thinking and not analysis, shove this article at them. As the authors show, mathematics and modeling have been used in cryonics since the very early days. Even back in the early 1970s, Art Quaife used mathematical analysis to model early perfusion systems and then followed up with a 1985 paper examining heat flow in the cryopreservation of humans.

I remember reading a fascinating article by biochemist Hugh Hixon, a long-time Alcor staff member, back in 1988 titled “How Cold is Cold Enough?”. The authors explain that Hixon chose the fastest known biological reaction, catalase and then compared reaction rates as the temperature is lowered from body temperature (37°C) on down. Chemical reactions that happen in one second at body temperature would take about 25 million years at the temperature of liquid nitrogen. Hixon addressed the question of how cold you need to go to not have to worry any further. In reality, below about -135°C, biochemical reactions would slow down far more than his methods suggested because “translational molecular motion is inhibited so safe storage of almost indefinite length should be possible”.

I also found engaging other pieces analyzing the effects of time and chemistry on the quality of cryopreservation. Several people have pondered the question of what cooling rate would be needed to escape ischemic injury. Authors Perry and de Wolf have both delved into the question, and Steve Harris developed a possible indicator in his E-HIT (equivalent homeothermic ischemic time) measure. We use a version of that measure in Alcor’s operating room to tell us when to cease cardiopulmonary support and begin surgery. This measure substitutes cooling rate for a fixed temperature.

There’s plenty more fascinating work examined here. (Really. You don’t have to be a mathematician to be fascinated, I promise.) For instance, cryobiologists Gregory Fahy, Brian Wowk and others at 21st Century Medicine (21CM) uncovered a method of predicting the toxicity of cryoprotective solutions to a fair accuracy based on their molecular constituents, and Perry used his mathematical mind to predict future cryonics caseloads.

If that doesn’t satisfy you, you will find more computational work related to cryonics in scholar profile and Q&A with Roman Bauer, followed by his article “Computational Neuroscience and Cryonics: Strangers that are Just Friends Waiting to Happen”. For a change of pace, I especially enjoyed David Brand-Erichsen’s critical review of the 1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Neutral Zone”. David echoes my own reactions to an episode that somehow both shows cryonics working while mindlessly repeating the “we need death” rationalization.

A-3360 becomes Alcor’s 179th Patient in June 2020

Alcor member A-3360 is an 87-year old male, with whole body cryopreservation arrangements. He was pronounced legally deceased in June 2020 in California.

This was a third-party sign-up case with cryopreservation arrangements made at the last moment by his family who contacted Alcor shortly after legal death. Alcor’s Deployment Committee dispatched one of its strategic partners, International Cryomedicine Experts (ICE) to send one of their paramedics. Once the legal paperwork had been signed early the next morning, the ICE operative was able to retrieve the patient and manage initial cooldown and transport to Alcor on dry ice. Cryogenic cooldown was completed, and the patient was transferred to long-term storage. A debriefing was held less than two weeks later.

Member A-1404 became Alcor’s 178th Patient in June 2020

Member A-1404, a 59-year old female Alcor member with neuro cryopreservation arrangements was pronounced legally deceased in Texas in June 2020.

Alcor contacted Suspended Animation (SA) to deploy for standby. SA was on the plane with equipment loaded in less than five hours but faced unavoidable layovers and mechanical issues with the planes. In case the delays were too much, Alcor’s Readiness Coordinator promptly got on a flight with a full Field Neuro Cryoprotection Kit, carried all of it into the hospital and got set up. Fortunately, SA arrived within four hours before care was withdrawn from the patient.

SA performed a stabilization and field blood substitution. The patient was flown on ice to Alcor where a neuro separation and neuro cryoprotective procedure was performed. Alcor’s gravity-driven Field Neuro Cryoprotection system was used in place of the standard pump and mixing reservoirs to minimize the generation of aerosols at a time when COVID-19 was spreading. A debriefing was held less than two weeks later.

Coronavirus Trends in States with Many Alcor Members

In my June 16 post I said I would look at other states which are home to many Alcor members. In those five days, Arizona’s confirmed case count has risen 28%. The 7-day moving average has hit three new highs. Mandatory mask-wearing has been imposed in most cities, including Scottsdale and Phoenix. What about California, Florida, and Texas? Those three states account for about 45% of all US Alcor members.

California
7-day moving average here.

Infection rate, positive test rate, ICU headroom used, and contacts traced are here.

Florida
7-day moving average here.

Infection rate, positive test rate, ICU headroom used, and contacts traced are here.

Texas
7-day moving average here.

Infection rate, positive test rate, ICU headroom used, and contacts traced are here.

According to this source, cases are increasing in these states:
CA, TX, FL, GA, NC, AZ, LA, OH, TN, AL, SC, UT, AK, NV, KS, OK, OR, ID, WV, WY, HI.

The change in positive test rates can indicate likely future trajectories for hospital utilization and deaths. Those numbers should be considered in the context of whether testing is increasing or decreasing. You can find a comparison of states on both measures here.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

Alcor Members Speaking at the Humanity+ July 7-8 Online Summit

POST-PANDEMIC: A World Free from Disease and Destruction. That’s the title of a summit organized by Humanity Plus to be held online via the Zoom platform. Alcor members are likely to find plenty of interest here. In fact, a good portion of the speakers are Alcor members! There are three key topics or themes:

    Beyond Mortality: Preventing Negative Conditions Impacting Life
    Beyond Scarcity: Economy of Abundance
    Beyond Cruelty: Stop Discrimination, Create Compassion

Most obviously, Alcor members will immediately find relevant the first of these topics. Longer lives do not occur in a vacuum. The other topics consider some of the context we might hope for as we live longer lives. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have provided the original impetus for this event. As the summit page says:

There is an undeniable need for new technology, science, and social efficacy to empower human dignity and to minimize the destruction of life.

Dealing with the pandemic is front page news. Yet, another never-ceasing crisis goes under the radar—all people are aging from failing systems, people are suffering from scarcity, and people are affected by the cruelty of others.

SARS-CoV-2 is a war on human biology and a wake-up call for every person on the planet. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, or socioeconomic status. It can affect everybody, but it kills first the oldest, the weakest, and the poorest.

This world-wide killer infection has expanded the bandwidth of news feed and online events as people are trying to understand and strategize a solution. There is no question that human civilization is now alert to its own vulnerability. Rather than continuing with such vulnerability, we need to act at the biological core. The human genome must be strengthened and protected.

Expanding on the three themes:

1. Beyond Mortality: The disease of aging leaves people helpless, locked in a system of sickness and death rather than a system of healthcare and life. We need new technology, science and social structures that promote positive conditions rather than negative conditions.
2. Beyond Scarcity: We must improve global quality of life. An economy of abundance is not about how much; it is about how good—a quality of life that provides basic human needs, freedom, and well-being, and that advances opportunity and potential.
3. Beyond Cruelty: Discrimination of people because of sex, age, race, gender, appearance, religion, beliefs, and political and social status are global, verifiable, and prevalent. What would society need to overcome misperception and cognitive bias? With an abundance of compassion, discrimination has no place or purpose.

The speakers currently confirmed are: Ben Goertzel, Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Nell Watson, Jose Cordeiro, Anders Sandberg, David Brin, Betelhem Dessie, Alishba Imran, Michael Masucci, Kat Cotter, Zoltan Istvan, Maria Entraigues-Abramson, Ryan O’Shea, David Ernst, David Wood, David Kelley, and Didier Coeurnelle.

More Information.

Register.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

Technical Update: Body Bag Modification

After much discussion between the medical and scientific staff, directors, and others, Alcor recently adopted new guidelines: “Pandemic restrictions on Alcor cryonics procedures”. Two components of those procedures for all cryonics procedures in the operating room (OR) are: 1. Either use a body bag or the Alcor whole body table for OR procedures. 2. Drain into a sealed bladder or bucket pre-loaded with the appropriate quantity of disinfectant. Steve and Jacob Graber figured out how to put this procedure into operation.

In Steve’s view, the best approach is to perform the Field Cryoprotection Procedure (FCP) directly in the body bag with a gravity drain into a sealed bladder pre-metered with the appropriate disinfectant. This enables good control over the drain protocol. It also prevents additional moving of the patient from the gurney onto and off of the WB table – a point of physical exertion and a potential source for contaminated fluid leakage.

Steve and Jacob “came up with a modification to the body bag that provides for a controllable drain system into a waste reservoir during FCP. See the image. The acrylic strengthening rings are welded to the body bag. The barbed drain-nipple is captured on the inside by a threaded nut. It is very strong and completely waterproof.”

Previously, to drain the body bag from the corner into a bucket meant cutting the body bag with scissors. This could expose the operator to the flow of fluid and risks spillage if the bag was moved. Steve writes: “The gurney must be tilted such that the drain is lower and a hydraulic assist at the head-end of the gurney does this, as well as offering the surgeon some height adjustment of the surgical field. We will use a hydraulic jack under that set of wheels and the rear wheels must be locked and/or blocked to prevent movement of the gurney.”

Having a controllable drain for ice bath water and for FCP effluent is a desirable feature. Steve and Jacob will be modifying all body bags with this drain system, including those that are sent into the field.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

A Bad Coronavirus Week for Arizona

In my last post a week ago, I noted the shortening of doubling times for confirmed cases of COVID-19, starting May 25. In that week, total confirmed cases have risen from 29,852 to 40,924. The daily percentage increase has varied between a low of 2.84% and a high of 6.52%. Another measure of growth in cases that smooths out daily bumps is the 7-day moving average. This is how it has looked over the last month:

05/27: 338
06/03: 710
06/10: 1,090
06/17: 1,581

Today, June 17, Arizona ranks #18 in total cases; #4 in new cases; #20 in cases/capita. #19 in total deaths; and #23 in deaths/capita. Rising numbers of confirmed cases can sometimes be attributed in part to increased testing. That has not been a factor over the last couple of weeks. A disturbing sign is the growing percentage of positive tests:

Covid Act Now’s chart provides several indicators:

In future posts, I’ll be looking at other states in which Alcor has many members and in which the disease is growing.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

COVID-19 Trends in Arizona

COVID-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SARS, MERS, Ebola, and swine flu don’t come close in the number of deaths and disruption of COVID-19 to the economy and everyday life. Today, just three months since the pandemic was formally announced, saw the largest number of new confirmed daily cases at 134,705 globally.

Members who read Alcor News will have been alerted to how we have prepared Alcor’s offices and services here in Arizona for the COVID-19 pandemic. Until very recently, Arizona was one of the least affected states. That has not made much difference to Alcor and its staff since we still have to care for members throughout the country and abroad – and we have to take special precautions to remain uninfected and ready to respond.

The Arizona situation has changed. Along with states such as California and Texas, Arizona has moved close to the top of the list of new cases per day. The first case detected in Arizona was on January 26, 2020. This was a 20-year-old male student of Arizona State University (ASU), who had traveled to Wuhan, China. Curiously, this case was the fifth reported COVID-19 case overall in the United States at the time. Despite that and unlike Washington, Arizona did not see an early rapid rise in cases.

In Arizona, May 25th marked a transition from lengthening to shortening doubling times. In the last week, the doubling time has continued to shorten. On May 1, there were 7,962 confirmed cases, an increase of 314. Today, on June 10 (the end of the day determined by GMT), there were 29,852 cases, an increase of 1,556. That’s a disturbingly rapid daily increase of 5.5%.

Whatever the future holds, Alcor remains prepared and ready. We have been lucky so far. That appears to be changing. Arizona will no longer be a good place to move to in order to avoid infection. If you have major medical issues and are considering relocating near Alcor, you should speak with Blake Honiotes, Alcor’s Medical Response Director.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

Alcor Leadership: Change for the Future

A statement from Max More:

When I joined Alcor in 1986, I couldn’t know that I would eventually take on the role of President & CEO. When I accepted that role, I was concerned that I wouldn’t last long. The average tenure at that time was 2.6 years and, for the most recent six presidents, it averaged 1 year 3.25 months. When I stepped down on Friday May 14, of this year, I had served for 9 years, 4.5 months (or, as I like to think of it: 3,425 days).

Times change and organizational needs change. New people with new skills step up. Alcor has been transitioning from the almost all-volunteer organization of the 1970s and 1980s to the desperately underpaid organization of the 1990s and early 21st century to an increasingly professional non-profit. The complexity of Alcor’s operations – remarkably but necessarily high for an organization of this size – calls for highly-trained and qualified personnel.

When I was taken on as President at the end of 2010, I came aboard with modest experience managing non-profits, over a decade of studying numerous aspects of business, and a pretty good understanding of Alcor’s functions. With the support of staff and board, I managed to initiate or shepherd through advances in many areas:

We moved a good portion of Alcor’s operating and reserve funds out of holdings that I saw were being eroded by inflation into investments designed to generate a reasonable return over the medium term. In 2016, for instance, this generated earnings of $102,649. Among other financial changes, I raised almost six million dollars in donations, and brought about cost savings in electricity, liquid nitrogen, and other areas; increased the financial allowance for members to relocate to Scottsdale if they are terminal; introduced alternative funding options and long-term member discounts, and reductions in membership dues; and moved the budget from in the red to in the black.

I still feel enthusiastic about talking to the media and the public about cryonics, even after doing so hundreds of times. I have done numerous television, newspaper, magazine, podcast, and book interviews; greatly improved the appearance of the Patient Care Bay and the inside of the building; created and developed the Alcor YouTube channel; introduced attorneys, financial planners, and others to Alcor through special tours; improved relations with medical institutions; and led the last round of major upgrades to Alcor’s website.

Over the last decade, I have also:

  • Overseen and participated in dozens of cryopreservations.
  • Fostered a culture that looks for ways to improve rather than being overly attached to past practices and equipment.
  • Reintroduced the SCCD (for circulating ice bath water to accelerate cooling).
  • Facilitated new research, such as the c. elegans work, the brain-only initiative, the CT scanning project, and many internal technical improvements.
  • Pushed (with limited success) to upgrade our IT infrastructure, including adoption of a CRM (Salesforce), better group collaboration forums, new timecard system, and online/cloud-based accounting. Achieved backup of patient and member files to the cloud.
  • Pushed to generate SOPs and to have new people trained as backup for some core positions.
    Introduced additional surgeons to our on-call list.
  • Improved international response capabilities.
  • Pushed for adoption of better guidelines for optimal temperature for transitioning from cardiopulmonary support to surgery and perfusion.
  • Chaired two successful conferences.
  • Improved security.
  • As Alcor keeps growing and becoming ever more complex, the time has come for someone with more managerial and executive experience to take over as CEO. I will still be active in full-time, but I’m relieved to say that we have an excellent person to take over the CEO duties in Patrick Harris. Patrick’s experience in large companies – and his own focused and determined personality – has equipped him with the knowledge and practical skills to lead and develop team, plan tactically and strategically, and execute efficiently on the other roles that form the chief executive position.

    I won’t be going anywhere. My new role comes with the rather grand title of “Ambassador and President Emeritus”. This describes my new role:

    The Ambassador and President Emeritus will report directly to the Alcor Board of Directors, using his long experience and involvement in cryonics, many contacts, institutional knowledge and decade of experience as Alcor’s President and CEO, in fulfillment of the following activities:

  • Engage in strategic thinking, planning, and marketing by both board assignment and independent initiative, communicating with the board and CEO. This includes identification of individuals and organizations with whom strategic alliances and involvement may be beneficial. Participate in fundraising in coordination with the Fundraising Committee.
  • Serve on the Deployment Committee per board appointment according to terms of the Deployment Policy.
  • Engage in public communications on behalf of Alcor, including lectures, interviews, facility tours, and networking, in coordination with other staff as appropriate. Participate in conference planning.
  • Write for Alcor News, Alcor’s Facebook page, Cryonics magazine, and the Alcor website in coordination with the editors of these publications. Serve on the Editorial Board of Cryonics magazine. Make contributions to the organization’s internal wiki to document procedures and policies.
  • Participate in a new round of website upgrades.
  • Under the direction of the Medical Response Director assist with case logistics planning as needed during deployments, assist in the facility as may be needed during cryopreservations, and monitor facility procedures and adherence to SOPs.
  • Facilitate Research Committee discussions and votes as may be required. Report to the board at least quarterly or as requested on activities of the Research Committee including progress and status of funded projects, and balance of Research Fund relative to commitments.
  • Participate in organization legal affairs as required.
  • Participate in board meetings and email deliberations along with other senior staff.
  • Monitor the health of the organization on an ongoing basis.
  • I look forward to serving the organization for another ten years.

    Patrick Harris and Max More, greeting in pandemic style