Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

A-2878, Cormac Seachoy, Case Summary Patient 142

Cormac Seachoy (member A-2878), age 27, lived in Bristol, UK (England’s sixth largest city) and was a graduate of the University of Bristol where he was the vice president of their Social Enterprise Project. He also worked as the website coordinator at Bristol Cable. He volunteered for many organizations including Transparency International, an anti-corruption charity in Sierra Leone. Cormac suffered from metastatic neuroendocrine cancer of the colon. He was pronounced on December 16th, 2015. Stabilization, cool down, and transport was performed by Cryonics UK and the perfusion was performed by Aaron Drake, with the assistance of Rowland Brothers Mortuary. Cormac, a whole body member, became Alcor’s 142nd patient on December 16.

Cormac had intended to relocate to Scottsdale via air ambulance and enter an assisted-living facility but wanted to put off leaving his family until it became necessary. We realized that this made it likely that we would have to conduct a field cryoprotection in England. We first heard from and started discussing this case with Tim Gibson of Cryonics UK in late November. With support from his family, he was able to complete the paperwork and get finances in place on December 9.

In a deployment discussion on December 14, we were going on the basis of a current estimate of two more weeks to live. At that time, we were still planning options involving an air ambulance and either hospitalization or hospice. At the same time, his doctors warned that, despite their prediction of two weeks remaining, his bowel could perforate at any time and he could die suddenly and without warning.

We didn’t know at the time that he had only two days left. However, we had also planned for the possibility of doing a field cryoprotection, probably with the assistance of Cryonics UK. Alcor’s Medical Response Director, Aaron Drake, prepared to fly to Cormac’s location and perform standby, stabilization, and field cryoprotection with the assistance of Tim (who was the only member of C-UK available). Cormac, however, was declining rapidly on the 16th and arrested before Aaron could arrive. While Aaron was in the air, Max More discussed options with Tim.

Tim made the 180-mile trip from Sheffield to Bristol, arriving at 6:49 pm MST – a little over two hours after pronouncement. Instead of Aaron going to Bristol, the plan was now for him to meet Tim and the patient in London. Tim carried out the stabilization and transport to London essentially solo (with some help from long-term Alcor member Garret Smyth, who drove from London to Bristol). Max was able to get our international mortuary company in London where we store supplies to open early to accommodate Tim’s expected arrival time. Aaron arrived in London in time to improve the cannulation, complete cryoprotection, and see the patient begin cooling to dry ice temperature.

In order to avoid complications over the holidays, we held Cormac on dry ice for a little longer. He arrived at Alcor early in the evening on December 30. Cormac, our 142nd patient, is now at liquid nitrogen temperature at Alcor.

Alcor Position Statement on Brain Preservation Foundation Prize

From Alcor President, Max More
February 12, 2016

In December 2015, 21st Century Medicine, Inc. published peer-reviewed results of a new cryobiological and neurobiological technique, aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation (ASC) that provides strong proof that brains can be preserved well enough at cryogenic temperatures for neural connectivity (the connectome) to be completely visualized. And this week the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF), after independent evaluation by neuroscientists Dr. Sebastian Seung, Professor at Princeton, and Dr. Ken Hayworth, President of the BPF, awarded The Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize to 21st Century Medicine based on these results.

The BPF press release says: “it is the first demonstration that near-perfect, long-term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain is achievable, thus directly answering what has been a main scientific criticism against cryonics.”

Many people are wondering whether Alcor plans to adopt the “Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation” (ASC) protocol used to win the prize and what the win means for cryonics in practice. Alcor’s position is as follows:

We are pleased that vitrification, the same basic approach that Alcor Life Extension Foundation has utilized since 2001, is finally being recognized by the scientific mainstream as able to eliminate ice damage in the brain. Alcor first published results showing this in 2004. The technology and solutions that Alcor uses for vitrification (a technology from mainstream organ banking research) were actually developed by the same company that developed ASC and has now won the Brain Preservation Prize.

ASC under the name “fixation and vitrification” was first proposed for cryonics use in 1986. ASC enables excellent visualization of cellular structure – which was the objective that had to be met to win the prize – and shows that brains can be preserved well enough at low temperature for neural connectivity to be shown to be preserved. Current brain vitrification methods without fixation lead to dehydration. Dehydration has effects on tissue contrast that make it difficult to see whether the connectome is preserved or not with electron microscopy. That does not mean that dehydration is especially damaging, nor that fixation with toxic aldehyde does less damage. In fact, the M22 vitrification solution used in current brain vitrification technology is believed to be relatively gentle to molecules because it preserves cell viability in other contexts, while still giving structural preservation that is impressive when it is possible to see it. For example, note the synapses visible in the images at the bottom of this page.

While ASC produces clearer images than current methods of vitrification without fixation, it does so at the expense of being toxic to the biological machinery of life by wreaking havoc on a molecular scale. Chemical fixation results in chemical changes (the same as embalming) that are extreme and difficult to evaluate in the absence of at least residual viability. Certainly, fixation is likely to be much harder to reverse so as to restore biological viability as compared to vitrification without fixation. Fixation is also known to increase freezing damage if cryoprotectant penetration is inadequate, further adding to the risk of using fixation under non-ideal conditions that are common in cryonics. Another reason for lack of interest in pursuing this approach is that it is a research dead end on the road to developing reversible tissue preservation in the nearer future.

Alcor looks forward to continued research in ASC and continued improvement in conventional vitrification technology to reduce cryoprotectant toxicity and tissue dehydration. We are especially interested in utilizing blood-brain barrier opening technology such as was used to win the prize (but which pre-dated work on ASC).

It may remain unclear to many whether this research result shows whether ASC or current vitrification without pre-fixation is more likely to preserve cell structures and molecular structures necessary for memory and personal identity. What we can note is that Robert McIntyre, the lead researcher on ASC at 21st Century Medicine, made a point during his presentation at the Alcor 2015 Conference of recommending against adoption of ASC in cryonics at this time.

For cryonics under ideal conditions, the damage that still requires future repair is now more subtle than freezing damage. That damage is believed to be chiefly cryoprotectant toxicity and associated tissue dehydration. It’s time for cryonics debate to move past ill-informed beliefs of “cells bursting.”

This is a groundbreaking result that further strengthens the already strong case that medical biostasis now clearly warrants mainstream scientific discussion, evaluation, and focus.

For a more detailed statement, and one that Alcor endorses, see:
http://www.evidencebasedcryonics.org/media/MBPP.pdf