Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

NSU Welcomes Ralph Merkle, Ph.D.

The Division of Math, Science, and Technology in
the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences is
proud to welcome Ralph Merkle, Ph.D., to Nova
Southeastern University as part of the college’s Distinguished Speakers Series.
Dr. Merkle will discuss “Life, Death, and Cryonics” on Thursday,
October 2, 2008, from 7:00-8:30 p.m., in the
Miniaci Performing Arts Center. Admission is free.
NOVA Southeastern University (NSU) is located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Their web page on the talk is at:
http://www.undergrad.nova.edu/articles/dss/ralphmerkle/

ATP and Whole-Body Vitrification System — Alpha Tests

We held our alpha test of the new ATP and the whole-body vitrification system this month using a swine as test subject.

Given that this was our first large animal operation in many years, we had something of a learning curve with regard to animal handling and the specific surgical procedures necessary for performing bypass. We chose to cannulate the carotid artery and internal jugular vein for the procedure. I performed the cannulation and Regina Pancake assisted, and the surgery went quite smoothly. We had the animal on bypass in 45 minutes, which our observing veterinarian considered quite successful. We began our equipment testing with the new transport perfusion system.

We needed a mere five minutes to prepare and prime the system prior to cannulation, but this figure was artificially high because the two people preparing the system had to refresh their memories about how to hang the perfusate bag. A time of less than two minutes to prepare the system is the benchmark for our next test. All of the new elements worked well, and we had no problems at all with the new ATP. We did not test it fully on a closed circuit, only for open flush of the swine, in order to start testing the whole body system.

Our whole body system consists of two parts that we tested: the patient enclosure and the computer-controlled perfusion. The patient enclosure involves an operating stage that cools the patient using liquid nitrogen injected into a plenum underneath the patient, fans to circulate nitrogen around the patient, a transparent – but internally lighted – cover for the patient, and enough seals to keep the nitrogen – both vapor and liquid – precisely where they should be.

The cooling stage cooled quite rapidly to the set temperature. We added controllers for that only recently, because we were still modifying the enclosure based on previous test results. The temperature controllers need to be adjusted slightly by modifying how the cooling curve is handled, but it took less than ten minutes to cool the stage to three degrees C. We were quite pleased with the even nature of the temperature, and Randal Fry is to be commended for his efforts to adjust the nitrogen spray to accomplish this result. The table itself is also at a more comfortable height for performing surgeries.

The perfusion system itself was the biggest unknown. Of course, the programmer knew precisely how the system would respond to our tests; because it was doing everything he told it to do. The calibrations of the system went well, as did the system initialization. Our cryoprotectant ramp control handled itself very well. Pressure control did not go well, and this was because we had been using the pressure control in a way that worked with an unloaded system (there was no body in the loop). This made a big difference, and we will be adjusting that portion of the program accordingly.

Our alarm functionality worked quite well. A clamp on a line that causes the pressure to spike resulted in immediate shut off the main pump. Level indicators worked well, and all the pumps in the system responded appropriately. Both manual and automatic control of all parameters functioned as intended. We have some minor tweaks to make to the user interface, but those are primarily cosmetic.

Elements that were not quite ready for the test included the full reporting functionality, though the pure data collection elements are all working well; the bubble alarms are not installed; and neither is the emergency stop button we intend to place on the patient enclosure (in case the surgeon sees something requiring immediate cessation of perfusion). We will be performing additional tests on the system’s memory requirements, to ensure that we will not have any problems during a long case. Once we tested the perfusion system to that extent, we tested the final element of the patient enclosure: the ability of the system to perform first-stage cooling.

This is the step where we plunge the patient’s temperature to just above the glass transition point for M22, -110 degrees C. The table itself cooled to -110 in eleven minutes, though of course, it took longer for the swine to reach that stage. Using an animal that was not vitrified caused the temperature to be reduced more slowly because of the heat requirements for the ice formation, but the swine passed the freezing point in 3.5 hours. We considered this acceptable under the test conditions. The swine’s temperature continued to drop until it reached -95 degrees C, at which point we discontinued the test. That drop took approximately 18 hours. This time is good, given that not all elements of the system worked exactly as intended, and we expect faster times as adjustments are made. We did find it took a considerable amount of nitrogen to reach that stage, but part of this is because our environmental fans failed. We will be looking into different fans for the next test and other improvements to reduce nitrogen consumption.

Overall, everyone was quite pleased with the results, and we expect to make the necessary modifications quickly and are planning our second test for later this week.

This work was done under the supervision of the Alcor Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee under Alcor’s USDA registration as an animal research facility, and was fully compliant with the requirements and standards of the Animal Welfare Act. The animals used in these tests were procured from a USDA-registered laboratory animal breeder.

I would like to thank the team who participated in this equipment test, including: Dr. Craig Woods, Joel Anderson, Stephen Van Sickle, Hugh Hixon, Randal Fry and Regina Pancake. We would also like to thank all of the donors who made pursuing this project possible.

Announcement of Positions–Update

Dear Alcor Member,

On June 7th and 8th, 2008, the Alcor board and management held a 2-day strategic planning meeting at the Alcor facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. At that meeting a funding offer brought forward by board member Saul Kent was accepted by the Alcor Board after considerable discussion.

The funding offer was made by three donors: the Life Extension Foundation, the Miller family, and Edward and Vivian Thorp, who will each contribute $150,000 a year to Alcor for three years, totaling $1,350,000. The funding provides for searches and three years of salary support for a CEO and a Transport Coordinator, who will be responsible for the early stages of the cryopreservation of Alcor patients. The funding will also pay to improve readiness for cases at Alcor and provide a 10% raise in salary for three years for the entire Alcor staff.

The position announcements for the CEO and Transport Coordinator positions are shown below. Information about how to apply for these positions is included. Those who wish to apply can do so immediately.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Chapman, Chief Operating Officer
Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Alcor Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation (Alcor) invites applications for the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Alcor is a non-profit, tax-exempt membership organization in Scottsdale, Arizona, that is the world leader in cryonics, cryonics research, and cryonics technology. The Alcor CEO will be in charge of all operations including the management of Alcor’s staff, which currently consists of 10 people in Scottsdale and consultants in other areas. This includes management of administrative activities, research and development projects, cryopreservation cases, and long-term patient care operations. The position will likely require periodic travel.

Qualifications for the CEO Position
It is preferred that candidates for the CEO position have the following qualifications:

1. Experience in successfully managing small or medium-sized companies that offer scientific and/or medical products and services. CEO candidates should possess an effective management approach that is consistent with Alcor’s mission statement and includes strategic planning, the development of a structured organizational system, setting and enforcing project deadlines, and effective tactics for conflict resolution. Those who only have experience in managing companies that do not offer technical products and services can also apply if they have a strong interest in and commitment to cryonics;

2. A good working knowledge of cryonics, cryonics practice, and the scientific evidence in support of cryonics. This includes some knowledge of the equipment, medications, and supplies used in the practice of cryonics, such as the portable ice bath (PIB), the air transportable perfusion system (ATP), anti-ischemia medications, portable cardiac compression devices, vitrification circuits, and the cryogenic dewars used to care for cryopreserved patients. Extensive knowledge of cryonics and cryonics practice is not a mandatory qualification for the position, however it is critically important that CEO candidates be strongly committed to the long-term care of Alcor patients who have been cryopreserved and the ongoing improvement of the methods by which new Alcor patients are cryopreserved;

3. The ability to work well and manage others well under ordinary circumstances and under pressure. Alcor performs cryopreservations about 2-8 times a year. These can involve rapid decisions with health, emotional, financial, organizational, and legal ramifications, especially when the patient and family have not made prior arrangements for the patient to be cryopreserved and are seeking to do so under considerable time pressure. The CEO will need to interact diplomatically with and educate patients, relatives, medical personnel, hospital administrators, and government officials. The CEO will need to know the legal basis for cryonics and be able to explain both the promise and limitations of cryonics in a credible manner. The CEO will need to have a commanding presence during emergencies and when coping with the everyday pressures of running the organization;

4. The ability to work well with the Alcor Board of Directors, which will be overseeing the CEO’s performance and the progress of the organization as a whole, and to work well with the other members of the Alcor management team;

5. Strong communication skills to help facilitate a positive public perception of Alcor and cryonics and to help increase Alcor’s rate of membership growth. This includes the ability and willingness to speak effectively in public, be interviewed by the media, offer tours of the Alcor facility to the public, and write articles for Alcor’s publications;

6. Fiscal management skills, including the ability to oversee Alcor’s budget, oversee annual accounting reviews, implement controls, communicate financial affairs to the board and membership, foresee and deal with cash flow challenges, and implement fundraising ideas to obtain both unrestricted and restricted donations and bequests to improve Alcor’s financial status on an ongoing basis.

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Transport Coordinator

The Alcor Life Extension Foundation currently has an immediate opening for a Transport Coordinator at our Scottsdale, Arizona, facility. The Transport Coordinator is responsible for the stabilization and transport phases of cryonics. Cryonics is the experimental practice of using ultra-cold temperatures to preserve human life in a state that may be recoverable by future medicine. For four decades Alcor has developed and implemented innovative techniques in the field of human cryopreservation. These techniques involve a combination of experimental interventions and conventional medical skills.

At Alcor, we believe that intelligence, memories, and personality are determined primarily by the structure and chemistry of the human brain. Our aim is to preserve the brain and the unique identity within it so well that advanced future technology can restore the individual to health.

The stabilization and transport phases of cryonics ideally consist of rapid cooling, administration of medications, and cardiopulmonary support to protect the brain following cardiac arrest prior to transport to Alcor. For more information about cryonics and Alcor please see our website at http://www.alcor.org.

Job Description:
The Transport Coordinator will be responsible for the postmortem stabilization and transport of Alcor patients to Alcor’s cryopreservation facility in Scottsdale Arizona. The Transport Coordinator will work with the Readiness Coordinator on the maintenance of Alcor’s existing patient stabilization and transport processes, ensuring that equipment is properly maintained for emergency deployment, field personnel are adequately trained, and that the highest quality of care is delivered to our patients. The Transport Coordinator will ensure that appropriate data is collected during stabilization and transport, and write detailed timely case reports. Once suitably experienced in our procedures, the Transport Coordinator will be responsible for improving our existing training regimen, updating documentation, extending regular training sessions for regional groups within the United States and overseas, and supervising the certification process for our technicians. The Transport Coordinator will work with personnel at Alcor and with external physicians, scientists and consultants to ensure that procedures reflect the best available medical and scientific knowledge. The Transport Coordinator will also perform the following specific tasks:

Premortem Responsibilities:
1. Establish contact with Alcor member’s physician or medical facility upon terminal diagnosis.

2. Track and assess member’s condition without participating in treatment. Tracking may continue on an intermittent basis, in person or by phone.

3. Decide when the member’s condition warrants deployment of a stabilization team.

4. Organize and maintain a Standby, often in a remote location, in which cryonics transport technicians wait to perform post-mortem stabilization procedures.

5. Establish contact with local funeral homes to assist in transport preparations.

6. Interact with patients, their family and local medical personnel to ensure the timely application of Alcor’s protocol after pronouncement of legal death.

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Research and Development

The Whole-body System The development of the whole-body system progresses with some changes to the user interface which will make the system easier to use and yet also provide more clarity on the data being generated at any given moment. We have also expanded significantly the note-taking capability of the system. We are at the point of final engineering testing for the ramp generation portion of the system and have yet to verify our 3-point calibration.

Redesigned Stabilization and Transport Kits As of August 20, 2008, our Transport Teams in Southern California, Northern California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Florida and the United Kingdom have now been outfitted with the new Med Kits. These kits are the first stage of the Stabilization and Transport Kits currently in development here at Alcor.

The latest configuration for the Med Kit allows for ease of use for our teams when stabilization and transport time is limited and crucial. Each medication is vacuum sealed into a clear plastic package containing all the required elements and written instructions.

Our Southern California Transport Team performed a test run recently at their July training session using a mock up kit identical to the now real and deployed Med Kits. Feedback from the field on the redesigned kit was very positive and greatly appreciated.

Administrative Statistics

Membership On July 31, 2008, Alcor had 863 members on its Emergency Responsibility List. Four memberships were approved during this month, no memberships were reinstated, six memberships were cancelled and one member was cryopreserved.

Applicants Currently there are 67 applicants for membership. Three new applicants were added, 4 applicants were converted to members.

Information Packets 143 info packs were requested this month, 7 were handed out during facility tours or from special request. The average total of 213 info packs sent per month in 2008 is compared to 129 in 2007.