Betty Bulk Tank’s first fill

Today we took a major step in improving patient care, in that we filled our new 900-gallon bulk tank for the first time. This poor tank had been neglected for several years for several years before we spotted it on the web; it had even been exposed to the elements since before our purchase in July, 2003. When we finally rescued it in November, 2005, it had rust spots, broken valves, and a large layer of dust.

Betty cost $12k when newly-used and can hold 900 gallons. She cost more than $3k for shipping and off-loading, and $2500 for repair and restoration. When new, these tanks go for $45k, not including shipping/off-loading. We like the price, and we like the added comfort of additional nitrogen on-site.

Hugh Hixon has been working hard to restore it to operational status. He changed the vacuum valve and modified the tank to accommodate nitrogen (originally configured for oxygen); and though we’re still working on plumbing the patient care bay for the patients, we decided it was time to partially fill the tank. I won’t comment on how we watched the wrong gauge, and filled nearly-full as opposed to part-way. …

We were only certain she was ready to fill, because Hugh had been testing — and fixing — the vacuum for many weeks. The first thing he did when it landed on the doorstep was apply a vacuum gauge and pump. Checking the vacuum pressure and the quality of the insulation were the quickest way to establish how much the refurbish would cost us.

At first, the vacuum gauge read more than we would have liked. We measured over 40 microns of gas pressure. Using a vacuum pump, we tested the insulation. That +40 micron measurement was not sustained as we continued to pump. Once the reading was below 1 micron, we stopped the pump and checked to see how the pressure responded. It rose, but with ever smaller slopes. If the vacuum has risen with consistent slope, we would have known that it was a leak, even if it was a slow leak. That this slope declined in steepness indicated a different problem.

The “getter”, a chemically-reactive lining in the vacuum that resembles kitty litter, has collected too much gas over the years and was releasing those bubbles into the vacuum. With each declining slope, we were seeing improvement in the filter these tanks have. Isolating the problem to this saturated filter was a good thing. It got better.
We waited to order a fill until the getter seemed appropriately out-gassed. And we decided to test fill.

Today’s fill was not without incident. Hugh and the nitrogen-supplier technician (an all-around useful cryotech guy) were both on hand to supervise the fill. One valve needed immediate replacing. That was accomplished with supplies on-hand. We also discovered a minor problem with a threaded valve. Replacing this valve requires we drain the tank, and we’ll be filling our portable dewars for some time to come. All nitrogen level maintenance will be done off the new tank until it’s low enough to replace the damaged valve.

Before people panic, this bulk storage tank has already been measured at better-than-industry standards of holding a vacuum of 4 microns for more than 24 hours. We’ll fix the valve, and more nitrogen will be available to the patients on demand.

All told, this project has cost us $12k, +$3k for shipping and off-loading, and $2500 for repair and restoration. Restoration is still on-going, insofar as it needs a fresh coat of paint. This will be done soon, and the patients will be moved in a week; bulk tank ready or not.

Media This Month

A record number of distinct computers visited Alcor’s website in February (30,270).

Media participation this past month includes:
Zig Zag: The cryopreservation filming for this documentary took place in February as did sit-down interviews of Alcor representatives and members. The producers informed us that they intend to include Arthur Rowe in the documentary as a skeptic of cryonics.

CNN: As a result of the “Good Morning America” piece, CNN contacted Alcor about a piece for “Anderson Cooper 360” with on-air reporting by Sanjay Gupta, their medical correspondent. We expect this piece to focus on the medical aspects of cryonics and include a member interview. We will announce when to watch for it.

Scottsdale Times: Also as a result of recent coverage, a reporter interviewed Tanya Jones, took a tour of the facility, and met with David Pizer about his wealth preservation arrangements.

Nouvo (Switzerland): This is Swiss Television’s newsmagazine devoted to technology, science and communications. Alcor provided B-roll footage to show an example of a cryonic suspension facility in the US, while the rest of the report discussed cryopreservation activities in Europe.

Big Aussie Breakfast: Tanya Jones gave a 10-15 minute radio interview for this morning show.

ABC News, Barbara Walters Special: Alcor was contacted about a Barbara Walters Special to focus on how to live longer and stay younger. This piece is in the initial stages of planning.

Alcor News #49 March 10, 2006

Alcor News, March 2006
Your source for insider’s info March 2006, #49
Tim Reeves Pleads Guilty
Former Alcor bookkeeper Tim Reeves, in a plea agreement, has pled guilty to 1 count of Attempted Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices. As part of the deal, he will be incarcerated in the Maricopa County Jail for no less than 8 months, and following that will be on probation for a total of 3.5 years. We will be applying for restitution in this case. Sentencing will be on March 31, 2006, at 1:30 pm before Judge Richard Gama at the Maricopa County Superior Court, Central Building. [SVS]

This bulletin is sent via email to anyone who requested it. Please do not reply to this message. Send comments, suggestions, or complaints to the editor, Mike Perry, (mike@alcor.org). Subscribe/unsubscribe information is at the end of this newsletter. Contents are copyright 2006 by Alcor Foundation. Authors This Issue: Jennifer Chapman [JC], Diane Cremeens [DC], Tanya Jones [TJ], Sergey Sheleg [SSH], Steve Van Sickle [SVS], Website Working Group [WWG].

Cryopreservation Cases
Some further details on last month’s case: On February 6 we were preparing for the cryopreservation of member A-1356. She was to be transported via air ambulance to Arizona, but her heart stopped before the flight time. The southern California remote kit was nearby her, as were Alcor team members in rotation as a precautionary measure. Unfortunately, her decline occurred extremely rapidly. Upon pronouncement, only one team member was on site. He administered and circulated some of the stabilization medications and began surface cooling. Once additional team members arrived, the patient was sent to a local facility for blood washout.

Because of the timing, we were unable to transport the patient to Alcor until the next morning. Her heart stopped about 15 minutes after the Department of Vital Statistics closed, and the county did not have provisions for after-hours access. Our cooperating funeral director worked with the family to ensure the paperwork was prepared for immediate submission in the morning, including driving to the physician’s home to obtain a signature on the death certificate. Unfortunately, he filed for the wrong permit. This error cost an additional three hours in transit time.

When the patient, a whole-body, arrived at the Alcor facility in Scottsdale, the open heart surgery was completed in short order. Cryoprotection began 75 minutes after her arrival. It continued through terminal concentrations, with the arterial, venous and burrhole samples being in close agreement.

Cooling was carried out in accordance with standard protocols, and the patient appeared to experience six cracking events during the temperature descent. She was transferred to a patient care dewar on February 23, 2006, and became Alcor’s 73rd patient.

Our second case in February was the sudden demise of a member in Ohio, A-1237. The 54-year-old gentleman with no known medical conditions died in the early morning hours of the 28th. His wife contacted Alcor after calling 911. With the cause of death uncertain, the police detectives contacted the Coroner’s Office. We discussed the possibility of a minimally invasive autopsy to establish the cause of death (information which is also of use to us). Unfortunately, county policy dictated that if an autopsy were to be performed, it would be comprehensive, compromising the cryopreservation. Furthermore, the autopsy would not even be scheduled until the next morning.

Because of the member’s long-time and strong desire for cryopreservation, his wife waived the autopsy in order to respect his wishes. The patient was released to a cooperating funeral home that same afternoon and transported to Arizona via commercial carrier. He is cooling now and is Alcor’s 74th patient. [TJ]

Research Update
The LESA fiber optic spectrofluorometer (see right) was tested using the Russian photosensitizer drug Photosens. Photosens appears to be a very useful agent for measuring cerebral circulation. This model can be used for testing different protocols related to improving perfusion in the brain during cryonics procedures.

Russian 5-aminolevulenic acid (5-ALA) photosensitizer was tested as a possible agent for a real-time test of tissue viability. The preliminary data showed that this drug does not penetrate the blood-brain barrier. The same experiment will be done using the lipotropic derivative methyl-5-ALA. [SSH]

2006 Conference Dates
Alcor has set the date for its 2006 conference: October 6-8. The location and speakers are still being determined. Registration will begin in a few months. [JC]

Transport Team Matters
We held the southern California training session the weekend of Feb. 18-19, covering biohazard protocols, sample collection, and the use of new devices deployed for stabilizations (intraosseous infusion and a respiratory impedance device). We also completed a stabilization simulation and held a debrief for local team members on A-1356.

Unfortunately, this was the last time we’ll be able to use our usual training facility. Our long-time southern California Co-Coordinator is closing up shop. If anyone wishes to volunteer a new location or has recommendations, please email Bill Voice (bill@alcor.org).

Three new team members are available in Arizona, thanks to Bill’s tireless recruiting efforts. Two EMTs and one respiratory therapist have been trained in the stabilization procedures and are available to participate in local standby and transport procedures. [TJ]

Media This Month
A record number of distinct computers visited Alcor’s website in February (30,270). Media participation this past month includes:
Zig Zag: The cryopreservation filming for this documentary took place in February as did sit-down interviews of Alcor representatives and members. The producers informed us that they intend to include Arthur Rowe in the documentary as a skeptic of cryonics.

CNN: As a result of the “Good Morning America” piece, CNN contacted Alcor about a piece for “Anderson Cooper 360” with on-air reporting by Sanjay Gupta, their medical correspondent. We expect this piece to focus on the medical aspects of cryonics and include a member interview. We will announce when to watch for it.

Scottsdale Times
: Also as a result of recent coverage, a reporter interviewed Tanya Jones, took a tour of the facility, and met with David Pizer about his wealth preservation arrangements.

Nouvo (Switzerland): This is Swiss Television’s newsmagazine devoted to technology, science and communications. Alcor provided B-roll footage to show an example of a cryonic suspension facility in the US, while the rest of the report discussed cryopreservation activities in Europe.

Big Aussie Breakfast: Tanya Jones gave a 10-15 minute radio interview for this morning show.

ABC News, Barbara Walters Special
: Alcor was contacted about a Barbara Walters Special to focus on how to live longer and stay younger. This piece is in the initial stages of planning.
Many of the above articles are available online (http://www.alcor.org/press/newsstories.html)

Membership Statistics
On February 28, 2006, Alcor had 785 members on its Emergency Responsibility List. One membership was approved during this month, no memberships were reinstated, three memberships were cancelled and two members were cryopreserved. Overall, there was a net loss of three members this month.

Next Board Meeting
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, 2006, at 11:00 AM (MST). Board meetings are typically held on the first Saturday of the month at the Alcor facility (7895 East Acoma Drive in Scottsdale, AZ). Members and the public are encouraged to attend.

Employment Opportunities
Have you ever thought about joining the Alcor team? We have opportunities for licensed Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, Registered Nurses, Lab Technicians and more to join our nationwide Transport Team. Participation is on a contractual basis. You’ll be given cryonics training enabling you to participate in our patient rescue and transport cases. Licensed professionals do not have to be Alcor members to join our team. We welcome your expertise and interest. Send your resume to: employment@alcor.org

Alcor United
Alcor members have a new forum where they can meet and chat with other members. Get to know other cryonics supporters in your area and around the world by visiting Alcor United (www.alcorunited.org).

:: jennifer@alcor.org
:: http://www.alcor.org
:: 877-462-5267
End of Alcor News bulletin #49 dated March 10, 2006.
©2006 Alcor Life Extension Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tim Reeves Pleads Guilty

Former Alcor bookkeeper Tim Reeves, in a plea agreement, has pled guilty to 1 count of Attempted Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices. As part of the deal, he will be incarcerated in the Maricopa County Jail for no less than 8 months, and following that will be on probation for a total of 3.5 years. We will be applying for restitution in this case. Sentencing will be on March 31, 2006, at 1:30 pm before Judge Richard Gama at the Maricopa County Superior Court, Central Building.

M22 Implementation

Alcor has implemented a new whole-body cryopreservation procedure which uses a new cryoprotectant solution, M22, licensed from 21st Century Medicine. The new cryoprotectant is perfused throughout the entire body using the same procedures required for glycerol cryoprotection; but while it cryoprotects the torso, arms, and legs, we are confident that it is also vitrifying the brain. The main difference, beyond the composition of the solution, is that neurovitrification can be done without separating the brain from the rest of the body.

This new whole-body procedure will now be standard for all members currently signed up as whole body, as well as for those whole body members who have executed an open option contract.

The important thing to realize about this process is what it cannot do. This is not whole-body vitrification, in the sense that the entire body is vitrified. Significant portions of the body do not cryoprotect sufficiently to vitrify, mostly because things like fatty tissue and skeletal muscle are not well-vascularized. This new procedure may not be as optimum for brain cryoprotection as a simple neuro procedure would be, because of the somewhat longer cryoprotection and cooling times. Conversely, compromises needed to protect the brain may lead to under-cryoprotecting the body, in less ideal cases. But the good thing to remember is that brain vitrification is now available to those who wish to remain strictly whole-body, and that the entire body is cryoprotected intact.

A significant amount of engineering work was done here at Alcor to ensure the proper use of M22. A new circulating chiller and perfusion circuit were needed, as were controlled-temperature enclosures for both the patient and the perfusion circuit to allow safe perfusion at temperatures well below the freezing point of water. The patient enclosure allows further cooling after cryoprotection, to at least -30 or -40 Celsius, reducing the hazards of temperature fluctuations while moving the patient into the next stage of cooling. The credit for this engineering work belongs to Hugh Hixon and Tanya Jones, who have done a wonderful job implementing the new procedure.

Those interested in neurovitrification and whole body cryoprotection will no longer have to face the sorts of compromises they did in the past, and we believe this is a significant advance in our capabilities. For those who would like to know more about M22, the composition and effects have been published in the scientific literature listed below [reference 1]. Electron micrographs of the ultrastructure of brain tissue vitrified with M22 have also been published [reference 2] and are available on the Alcor website at http://alcor.org/library/alcor-new-york-academy-of-sciences-paper/.

Further information and micrographs explaining the switch to M22 technology for all Alcor cases can be found on our website at http://www.alcor.org/library/new-cryopreservation-technology/.

As explained in reference 1, M22 has been shown to be compatible with high viability of tissue slices and with consistent survival of kidneys after transplantation. This allows the unprecedented vitrification of the human brain within the intact human body using a solution that is in principle capable of preserving tissue viability as measured by present-day methods. However, to be sure that the brain will vitrify in compromised human patients, Alcor currently must perfuse M22 for longer periods of time than those shown to preserve viability in model systems. In addition, M22 has not yet been shown to preserve the viability of the brain in model system studies.

Nevertheless, the use of M22 allows Alcor to come closer than ever to achieving the goal of in situ brain vitrification using perfusion conditions that preserve tissue viability by current standards. It keeps Alcor on the road to the possible, eventual attainment of this goal. [SVS/TJ]

(1) Fahy GM, Wowk B, Wu J, Phan J, Rasch C, Chang A, Zendejas E. Cryopreservation of organs by vitrification: perspectives and recent advances. Cryobiology. (2004) Apr;48(2):157-78. http://www.21cm.com/pdfs/cryopreservation_advances.pdf

(2) Lemler J, Harris SB, Platt C, Huffman TM. The arrest of biological time as a bridge to engineered negligible senescence. Ann N Y Acad Sci. (2004) Jun;1019:559-63. Review. http://alcor.org/library/alcor-new-york-academy-of-sciences-paper/

Progress Toward Intermediate Temperature Storage

In the previous Alcor News we reported that Alcor has acquired the prototype of an Intermediate Temperature Storage (ITS) device developed by Brian Wowk of 21st Century Medicine. (For an explanation of why ITS is desirable, please check the explanatory section in Alcor News #13 dated July 1st, 2003.)

Our new lab assistant, Todd Huffman, has been studying Brian Wowk’s design and has visited 21st Century Medicine to discuss reliability issues and possible modifications. Since the ITS pod will be cooled by positioning it above a pool of liquid nitrogen inside a Dewar, we have been debating which type of Dewar to use. An off-the-shelf industrial design is available, large enough to contain seven ITS pods (one in the center and six around it, in a hexagonal pattern). However, our proprietary “bigfoot” Dewar design is much taller, only slightly more expensive, and we have had extensive experience operating them over the past decade. A “bigfoot” seems our best option at this point.

In theory, it would be tall enough to contain a stack of three layers of ITS pods, with seven pods in each layer. The problem is that a tall Dewar will allow a more severe temperature gradient. In other words, the pods at the top will tend to be warmer than the pods at the bottom, and ITS requires that the temperature should be controlled with some precision.

One way around the problem is to use an internal framework of metal such as aluminum, which is a good conductor of heat and could minimize the temperature gradient. Another possibility is to fill the lower part of the Dewar with conventional neuropatients fully immersed in liquid nitrogen, with a single layer of ITS pods above them at the top. The disadvantage of this configuration is that we would have to modify our standard neuropatient containment shell. Also the ITS pods would get in the way during insertion or removal of neuropatients.

Another issue which Todd is investigating is the optimal refill system to maintain the reservoir of liquid nitrogen. A gravity feed would provide the security of constant refill without pumps, but would be grossly inefficient since the pipe connecting it with the Dewar cannot be optimally insulated and will promote nitrogen boiloff.

Using a pump for automatic refill sounds intuitively risky, but low-temperature pump design has been perfected in industrial applications, and a Dewar refill pump probably would run only for a few minutes per week. Two pumps could be installed in parallel for redundancy.

Todd has been tabulating every conceivable failure mode, including liquid-nitrogen level sensor malfunction (Dewar will boil dry), failure of temperature sensor inside ITS pod (patient may become too cold or too warm), wire-break failure, pod heater failure, control system failure, and many others.

Probably we will need four months to explore all these failure modes and develop satisfactory solutions, after which the construction and testing of actual patient storage units may take another two months. This is longer than we would like, but obviously the system must be absolutely reliable before we can offer it as an option to our members.

We can’t predict how much ITS will cost relative to conventional Dewar storage until we have established all the components in the system and have measured the liquid nitrogen boiloff rate.

Intermediate Temperature Storage: A New Era at Alcor

Maintaining patients at an intermediate temperature means keeping them warmer than liquid nitrogen, but cold enough to inhibit biological decay. For years we have wanted to provide this option. On June 14th, we came much closer to our goal.

Why Intermediate Temperature Storage is Necessary

If cryoprotective perfusion is performed successfully with a high terminal concentration, residual amounts of water in solution in the brain tend to solidify instead of forming ice crystals. When we use the vitrification solution which is now standard for all Alcor neuropatients, the entire brain should become a glassy solid as its temperature drops below the “glass transition point” around -125 degrees Celsius.

Traditionally, we have maintained our cryopatients at -196 degrees, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. We use liquid nitrogen because it is cheap, nontoxic, convenient, and requires no refrigeration equipment at our facility. The liquid is “precooled” when it is delivered. Unfortunately, it is colder than we would really like it to be.

When a cryopatient makes the long journey from -125 to -196 degrees, some portions of the brain inevitably tend to cool faster than others. This creates thermal stress which can result in fracturing. We use a “crackphone” to sense and record vibrations which we believe are an accurate indication of fracturing events.

Proponents of nanotechnology believe that fracturing will be relatively easy to repair in the future compared with cellular damage, but still we would like to prevent it. The problem probably can be minimized or even eliminated if the patient isn’t allowed to get so cold, and is held at a temperature just below the glass transition point. In other words, we would like our patients to be cold enough to vitrify, but not so cold that they start to fracture. Unfortunately the only easy way to achieve this has been by using an expensive laboratory freezer–until now.

A New Way to Maintain an Intermediate Temperature

On June 14th, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, biophysicist Brian Wowk of 21st Century Medicine gave a remarkable presentation attended by all Alcor board members and many staff members. Dr. Wowk has developed a simple, reliable design for an intermediate temperature storage device using a heavy-gauge metal container enclosed in a jacket of closed-cell insulating foam fitted with two 2-watt heaters. The insulating jacket is then immersed in liquid nitrogen, and the heaters are run variably by an external controller to maintain the desired temperature inside the metal liner, which conducts heat and minimizes the thermal gradient.

According to Dr. Wowk, seven of his storage devices will fit beside each other within the diameter of a typical “bigfoot” dewar of the design that Alcor uses. The initial cost of building each storage device will be around $2,000, but a greater expense will be incurred in the long term as the heating elements will increase the total boiloff of liquid nitrogen in the enclosing Dewar. Also, because of the foam insulating jacket, each intermediate temperature storage device will occupy a greater volume compared with a standard neuro container. However, we believe that many of our members may feel that a higher payment for longterm care is a very reasonable tradeoff if Dr. Wowk’s design minimizes or eliminates fracturing.

Alcor has purchased Dr. Wowk’s first prototype and will be testing it for reliability and boiloff. After we have the numbers, we will be able to offer intermediate temperature storage probably as an extra-cost option. We can’t estimate the precise cost at this time, but Alcor News will provide additional updates in the future.

This is the most exciting development in cryonics since the advent of vitrification, and we’re especially pleased by its simplicity. We believe there is an excellent chance that this will become the preferred method of patient care at Alcor.