A few days ago, Alcor announced that it would contribute $10,000 to the Brain Preservation Foundation toward the costs of testing both cryopreservation and chemopreservation. The Foundation has declined our donation because of concerns that it might be perceived as influencing the judges’ decisions. Even though Alcor was not a competitor for the prize, we can understand the Foundation’s concern.
We will instead look for other ways to validate existing cryopreservation methods, as well as continue to improve them.
The original post of July 13, with minor edits, follows.
Alcor Contributes to Brain Preservation Technology Prize
How well does cryopreservation (with current methods) work? Is the process sufficiently preserving personal identity-critical information stored in the brain? Are there any alternatives that might be as good or better? Although the Alcor Library already contains evidence that, under good conditions, we are preserving neural connections (the totality of which is now sometimes being referred to as the “connectome”), more evidence is desirable.
The Brain Preservation Foundation is offering a $100,000+ Brain Preservation Technology Prize in order to stimulate the scientific evaluation of such technologies as cryopreservation and chemopreservation (aldehyde or other chemical fixation followed by embedding in solid resin). The goal of the prize is to lead to “the development of an inexpensive and reliable hospital surgical procedure which verifiably preserves the structural connectivity of 99.9% of the synapses in a human brain if administered rapidly after biological death.”
Alcor champions and supports objective feedback about the results of our procedures (and possible alternatives). Therefore, we are committing $10,000 towards the Evaluation Fund. This contribution will come from the Research Fund. Although the Prize itself is fully funded, funds are needed to conduct the evaluation. Alcor’s contribution will make a big difference, since the tests are estimated to cost $25,000 to $50,000.
Alcor does not directly have a horse in this race. The cryopreservation approach is represented by a team from 21st Century Medicine. 21CM aims to demonstrate the quality of ultrastructure preservation that their low temperature vitrification technique can achieve when applied to whole rabbit brains.
In a forthcoming article, we will address claims (currently untested) for the advantages of chemopreservation over cryopreservation. We will critically examine the claim that chemopreservation or plastic embedding would be much cheaper (for individuals not committed to whole body preservation), look at some reasons to expect significant damage caused by chemopreservation of whole brains, identify problems for chemopreservation under less-than-ideal circumstances, explain why the Prize handicaps the cryopreservation option because of the way the test is to be carried out, and will argue why brain preservation technologies should be evaluated by viability criteria as well.
Even with these critical comments on chemopreservation and plastic embedding to come, Alcor supports the Brain Preservation Technology Prize. You may want to consider contributing.
One of the Prize judges, connectome expert and MIT professor Sebastian Seung will be speaking at the Alcor-40 conference. So register for the conference and come engage in the discussion around the alternatives for preservation.