Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Patient CT Scan Project

During the month of November the research and development team made a field trip to a local medical CT scanning service, taking with them two recent neuro patients. Due to circumstances surrounding their death, one patient was cryoprotected and the other was not.

Patient safety is Alcor’s main objective, and with that in mind our neuro patients were transported inside individual liquid nitrogen dewars securely tied down and well padded against vibration in the back of our Rescue Vehicle.

Having safely returned from our trip and taking care of returning the patients to the patient care bay, Steve Graber opened up the first of the patient scan files in our 3-D visualization software. This is where the team could really see some interesting things. First, using the ‘Slice’ tool to remove a small section of the skull (Fig. 1) and looking into the brain cavity we could make out the sensor wires which were previously placed into the brain cavity during surgery. Through the slice we can see variations in brain density which is visible in the red and purple range. NOTE: Color designations are entirely arbitrary.

A direct comparison of two brains digitally enhanced in software (Fig. 2) highlights unusual density variations between brains. When one compares these identically composed, sectioned and displayed images of a cryoprotected brain (top image) vs non-cryoprotected brain it is clear that there is a big difference in overall density between these two brains. A-1546 displays a significantly greater electron density than A-1088 throughout the majority of the brain. Overall the A-1546 brain is much more electron dense and we believe this to be evidence that perfusion did occur, at least in certain areas. It is important to note that we do not feel that complete perfusion of cryoprotectant was achieved across the entire brain. This may be due to the fact patient A-1546 was pronounced out of state and experienced a travel time of 18 hours from pronouncement to the beginning of the cryoprotective ramp in the Alcor O.R.

A future test of a variety of substances under the CT scanner in LN2 is expected to help to identify electron density specifics of cryoprotectants, which in turn will make our analysis that much more complete. We also expect to test a locally pronounced patient vs an out of state pronounced patient to determine the quality differences in cryoprotection caused by the time-lag to cryoprotection between these two scenarios.

Alcor’s 110th Patient

Alcor member A-1277 was pronounced on Friday, December 9, 2011. A whole body case, A-1277 became Alcor’s 110th patient.

A member in the Yonkers, New York area had been in and out of the ICU at a local hospital for more than two months. Her son, also a member, was the liaison between Alcor and her medical providers. Despite numerous procedures and an encouraging recovery, she suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly succumbed to her illness, arresting at 3:55 AM (MST) and then pronounced. Previous communications with the hospital and a local mortuary prompted immediate heparinization, circulation, ice application and an expedited release from the hospital.

The time needed for a team response was greater than simply initiating an immediate airline shipment. Therefore the patient’s cooling was continued by the mortuary along with packaging and processing of the appropriate paperwork. The patient arrived in Alcor’s surgery suite at 10:13 PM on Friday night at a temperature of 2.6C. Cryoprotection was ended at 3:02 AM on Saturday December 10, and cooling with liquid nitrogen begun at 3:50 AM. At the time of writing, A-1277 is at -140C and cooling.

Follow Up Test – New O.R. Table

In November, Steve Graber reported on a table cooldown test to -80C using saline water which demonstrated that the water bags in the cooldown chamber experienced difficulty passing through the ice temperature barrier, resulting in a very long cooldown process. Ultimately the test was stopped before the bags reached any appreciable cooling. Additionally, the research and development team noticed the table was cooling the leg portion much quicker than the remainder of the table.

The test was designed to more closely approximate the cooling characteristics of an actual patient scenario by using a mixture of anti-freeze and water in a 70/30 mix, rated to -65C. Steve’s test was run in essentially the same fashion as the previous run with identical LN2 consumption (two 200-liter dewars), and the data collection continued for an additional day to record the warmup segment. The table cooling tuning has been slightly over-corrected with the head and torso areas now cooling more quickly than the leg area. This should now allow him to dial in corrected vent opening settings for even cooling across the table. In the test the team noticed a significant improvement in the temperature drop vs saline water. At the end of our 10 hour test both the head and torso bags are nearing terminal temperature and the leg bag lagging behind. We achieved close to -80C cooling on our test bladders using LN2 at about the same rate as our current cooldown equipment.

Administrative Report

Membership Statistics
Alcor had 958 members on its Emergency Responsibility List. Seven memberships were approved during the month of November, one membership was reinstated, no memberships were cancelled and one member was cryopreserved. Overall, there was a net gain of seven members in November.

Applicant Statistics
Alcor had 44 applicants for membership. Seven new applicants were added, seven applicants were converted to members and eight applicants were cancelled resulting in net a loss of eight applicants in November.

Information Packet Statistics
Alcor received 92 info pack requests in November. Twelve were handed out during facility tours or from special request. The average total of 105 info packs sent per month in 2011 compares to 199 in 2010. The full Information Packet is now available online.

Northern California CryoFeast

This year’s Northern California CryoFeast will be held on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 1:00 pm at the Halcyon Molecular facility in Redwood City, California.

About Halcyon:
Halcyon’s mission is to solve death. Currently they are pursuing inexpensive, accurate DNA sequencing as a powerful means of understanding biology, curing disease and extending health.  Their approach to sequencing involves high speed electron microscopy, synthetic chemistry, and nanomanipulation (not related to R. Merkle’s concepts). 

Halcyon Molecular is at:
505 Penobscot Dr
Redwood City, CA 94063

Event Schedule:
1 PM event starts and feasting begins
1:30 PM tour of Halcyon’s labs
2:00 PM talks start & feasting continues
Followed by informal discussion
6:00 PM event ends

Presentations:
If you have an idea for making cryonics work, you are welcome to present a brief but interesting 5-7 minute talk on cryonics or a related topic! There will be a projector and computer for PowerPoint presentations. Also, access will be provided for Google presentations.

Here are a few ideas:
* The search for a magical vitrification solution.
* Summary of an excellent paper in cryonics.
* Cryonics by the numbers: how many cryonicists are there?
* Cryonics as the easiest AND most under-funded of the Possible Ways of Not Dying    (uploading, bio-cures, AI being the other biggest 3)
* Summary of ‘the rabbit kidney’ results.  One kidney?   Not reproducible?
* How bad is warm ischemia really?
* Idea of how to make reversible cryonics work.
* Or just bring your questions. 

The host will give a short 5 minute talk on “Idea of how to make reversible cryonics work” but anyone is welcome to discuss this topic.

There will be pizza, fruit, and plenty of drinks but feel free to bring other dishes to share. 

If you would like to give a brief presentation send an email to:  m@halcyonmolecular.com
Also to RSVP for this event, please send an email to: m@halcyonmolecular.com

Alcor’s 109th patient

Alcor member A-1546 was pronounced on Wednesday November 9, 2011. A neurocryopreservation case, he became Alcor’s 109th patient.

A-1546 had been on our watch list for a couple of years. He originally went into the hospital with a pulmonary embolism and it was discovered that he had gastric cancer. He said that a follow-up PET-CT exam showed that he was free of any problems. However, he went back into the hospital on November 3, 2011 with difficulty breathing, and was treated for pneumonia, hypotension, and tachycardia. Doctors discovered that his lungs were riddled with metastatic gastric cancer and that he had a hepatic lesion.

Alcor was alerted to the worsened situation by means of a medical alert message on November 5. The doctor estimated that A-1546 had perhaps two or three weeks remaining to live and wanted to transfer him to a hospice. The $5,000 available for moving to a Scottsdale-based hospice was mentioned; the member’s wife did not favor the idea but was otherwise cooperative. Alcor faxed written directions to the doctor for review and later spoke to the hospice director. A-1546 was being cared for by a hospice-at-home program from November 7.

At 12:55 PM on November 9, A-1546’s wife reported that he was having severe breathing difficulties. Although just a couple of days earlier, doctors had estimated that he had several more weeks, the Deployment Committee decided on November 8 that a standby was indicated. Since Aaron Drake could get there before Suspended Animation, he left Phoenix at 10:33 AM to fly to Washington (state) with a mini-med kit. A-1546 declined even faster than expected, so that Aaron arrived just an hour and a half before clinical death (which was around 5:30 PM PST). The SA deployment, which wouldn’t be possible until the next day, was canceled. Aaron dealt with the situation on his own, although SA handled arrangements with the mortuary.

A-1546 was delivered to Alcor at 10:44 AM on November 10, with a pharyngeal temperature of about 6C and no sign of clotting. The time from arrest to on the pump was 17 hours, 52 minutes. Good perfusate flow was observed, with even perfusion of both hemispheres and even skin coloration. Cryoprotection was completed at 4:31 PM MST.

CEO Report

The never-ending quest for cost reductions continues. A review of Alcor’s utility bills and an examination of the roof space made it clear that thousands of dollars per year have been avoidably incurred in the form of unnecessarily high air conditioning bills. We have asked for bids from three companies and will choose one in the coming week to improve insulation and install radiant barriers. Judging by the remarkable escalation in billing during the hotter months (in some units of the building more than others), the annual savings should make this investment pay off in a pleasingly short time.We are still working on reducing liquid nitrogen bill, to the benefit of the Patient Care Trust. Despite overcharging us for years, our vendor is trying to hold us to the contract, which would mean being locked in until 2013. We are looking into either legal advice or minimizing purchases while pricing alternatives. 

We have also reduced the size of the staff by one. This is again in pursuit of maintaining a balanced budget. We wish former equipment fabricator Randal Fry well, and thank him for his years of work and attention to detail.

One of my concerns has been to improve Alcor’s security. It was clear that the existing (and quite antiquated) security camera system was ineffective. Not only is its coverage severely limited, its output was rarely observed. I put Steve Graber in charge of looking into a new system. Happily, prices have dropped dramatically since the existing system was purchased. The new system will provide vastly better coverage, including tilt and zoom viewing, constant recording, and output viewable (and cameras controllable) from the desktop.

The project to greatly improve Alcor’s ability to respond to members in England and other parts of Europe (and, later, in Australia and other parts of the world) and to ensure high quality standby, stabilization, and transport capabilities, including vitrification, is proceeding. I have been talking by Skype and email with a number of active cryonicists in Europe who are helping to gather information about existing capabilities and possible cooperative arrangements. At the same time, we are figuring out what equipment and supplies we would need to provide, who would house them, and who would use them (if Alcor were unable to send a team across the Atlantic in time).

On the communications front, Barry Aarons is helping us deploy the Alcor Speakers’ Bureau to give talks to organizations in the area. A few weeks ago, we started this effort modestly with me giving a talk to the Midtown Lion’s Club. The goal is to build a reputation and have a voice in the influential local business groups.

Finally, I’d like to note that we need to find a way to encourage our members to actually read both Cryonics magazine and the Alcor News emails and blog posts. We have already discussed the evidence that a substantial number of members are not reading the magazine. I have seen further evidence in the number of emails I am still receiving from members addressed to Jennifer Chapman.

— Max More