Never Say Die

by Graham Southorn
Focus Magazine < > July 2003 page 70

Interview with Dr Yuri Pichugin,
head of research at the Cryonics Institute

How did you become a cryonics scientist?

I began my career as a scientist in the former Soviet Union. I decided to become a cryonics scientist after I left the Young Communist League in 1975. At that time, officials had very inaccurate opinions about cryonics and so I wasn't able to perform cryonics research there. But later I did become a cryobiologist and worked fork years at the Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine in Ukraine. In 1991 I emigrated to the United States and became a scientist at the Cryonics Institute.

Why did you want to work in cryonics, rather than other fields of science?

I don't want to die, but rather to live as long as possible. Although I am not a religious believer, I accept the Christian ideal of eternal life. But in contrast to the Christians, cryonicists like myself would like to realise this ideal by real and effective scientific methods, rather than supernatural ones.

Is there a time limit after death within which customers must be suspended?

Ideally, there is. The time limit depends upon the temperature at which the bodies are kept following death. It's best if the amount of time after death does not exceed 24 hours, and the bod. kept at 0C until suspension.

What temperature are the bodies stored at?

Patients are kept at liquid nitrogen temperature, -196`C

How long does it take to freeze a body and how do you know if the process has been successful?

The Institute uses glycerol as a cryoprotectant with slow cooling rates. A body is cooled for about two days from 0C to dry ice temperature (-79C) and another week from -79C to -196C (temperature of liquid nitrogen). We can record the temperature of the body using thermocouple thermometers, and if these show-196C, it means the process has been successful. Perfusion with glycerol is the most difficult part of the suspension process.

How long can bodies be kept in suspension?

In liquid nitrogen, they can probably be kept for centuries at least.

How many people are kept in suspension at your facilities?

At present, we have 47 patients in the cryostats.

Why don't you freeze heads, like some of your rival organisations?

Our price for whole body suspension is already lower than the price of others for heads, and we think that freezing heads alone makes it more difficult for families to agree to the process

What are the factors that influence the $28,000 cost of the process?

The largest part is invested to provide income for ongoing care for as long as is necessary.

It Is it likely that the cost will come down in the long run?

Costs will tend to come town because of larger scale operations, but may tend to ise because of more omplicated procedures being developed, and because of inflation. So far we have never had to raise prices, and if the time comes when new procedures are too expensive for current nembers, the older procedures will stilt be available at the old prices.

Will you be placed in suspension when you die and, if so, what do you hope to achieve in a future life?

I hope to be placed in suspension when my body ceases to function and a physician pronounces my legal death. But a legal death is not absolute death, because the human organism continues to be alive at tissue and cell levels. I would like to achieve everything I possibly can in my future life - to become an infinite microcosm in the infinite great macrocosm.

Scientific advances will need to be made before the suspended people can be brought back to life. What will be the biggest hurdle to overcome?

In general, in order of descending difficulty, we need to: repair freezing damage, repair the results of delay in cooling, repair damage done by old age, and repair the immediate cause of death, such as disease or trauma.

How long do you think it will be before you can revive the customers in storage?

For those already in storage, the usual guesses range from 40 to 200 years. They are not 'customers' but member patients. CI is not a commercial firm, but a nonprofit organisation run for its members.

Why do you think future societies will accept people from the past?

The improved society of the future will not be like present human societies. I hope that a superhuman (God-like) civilisation will come into existence. A superior society would necessarily be a compassionate one. Such a new civilisation would try to raise everybody from the dead and to give everyone eternal life.

What do you say to scientists who believe that cells are irreparably damaged by freezing?

Irreparable just means not capable of repair by presently known means. There have been many successes in reviving frozen specimens, including some small mammalian organs such as the rat parath and the rat uterus. Large systems are more difficult; of course. But science is always making progress. And so are we.

Has the technology behind cryonics improved and evolved?

The science and technology behind cryonics has improved and evolved but not enough to allow for the successful reanimation of frozen patients.