Life Extension Society 990 N. Powhatan St. Arlington VA 22205 703-534-7277 1996 No. 3 LIFE EXTENSION SOCIETY NEWS Jul 1996 $3 Million Pledged for Brain Cryopreservation Research Colton, California and Toronto, Ontario, August, 1996 -- Over $3 million has been pledged toward the "Prometheus Project," a 10-year, $10 million dollar research project in mammalian brain cryopreservation, according to Paul Wakfer, originator of the project. Wakfer states that over forty individuals and organizations have pledged this total after only two months of a pledge drive. The goal of the research project is to convincingly demonstrate the fully reversible preservation of a mammalian brain at extremely low temperatures. The project will attempt to cool a mammalian brain to a temperature of -140 degrees Celsius for six months, then to restore the cooled brain to normal physiological and mental functioning. If the project succeeds in this goal, findings will be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal. Wakfer has named the project the Prometheus Project because of its audacity and its potential to save lives. Wakfer states, "The goal of the Prometheus Project is to find and to demonstrate a cryopreservation method which will allow a living brain to be stored indefinitely and restored to life. I can't think of any research in the area of suspended animation which is more important and deserving of support. If we can preserve and restore brain function in a mammal, how far can we be from being able to keep a human's identity alive indefinitely. This could be the ultimate in life-saving technology." Wakfer proposes that a new, for-profit company be formed to conduct the research. Some procedures and materials developed in the research would enter the public domain, while the company would seek to patent and license others. While the pledge drive continues, Wakfer and his scientific and business advisors are developing a research plan and a business plan. The plans will be continually modified to gain the approval of most pledgers. Once individuals and organizations who have pledged a total of $10 million approve the plans, the new company will be incorporated, shares will be sold, and the research effort will begin. Wakfer's target for start-up is early 1998, but, he says, "I'm in this for the long haul." Wakfer emphasizes that pledges are not legally binding and that funds are not being solicited at this time. Need for the Research We all have heard stories about people who drowned in cold water and were resusciated after extended periods. This is possible because the low temperature slows down biological activity. Once the drowning victim's heart stops beating, the damage from lack of oxygen is slowed substantially in cooled tissues and organs. Because the brain is supplied with cooled blood and exposed to cold diffusing through the skull, it too is protected from damage longer. Doctors, medical technologists and cryobiologists take advantage of this phenomenon to save lives. For instance, human organs can be chilled and stored for a number of hours for transplantation. During certain types of neurosurgery, the body and brain are cooled and the heart is stopped deliberately for up to an hour. "Cooling helmets" and mobile blood-cooling apparatus to provide emergency life support for trauma victims are being designed and tested. Theoretically, organs and even entire bodies could be stored indefinitely at an extremely low, sub-freezing temperature. However, simply freezing an organ or body causes tremendous damage from the crystalization of the water in the cells. Recently, research efforts have been undertaken to solve this problem. Organ-specific cryoprotective agents have been identified that dramatically reduce ice damage but are not so toxic that they kill the organ being preserved. In other research, less damaging temperature-reduction procedures and chemical preservation techniques have been identified. Ultimately, the Prometheus Project is expected to garner support (and pledges) from investors and organizations interested in possible applications for emergency medicine and organ transplantation. Initially, however, the majority of pledges have come from individuals who are signed up for cryonic suspension, or cryogenic preservation. Cryonics is the cryogenic preservation of human remains at ultra-low temperature in the hope that some day the donor will be restored to life and health. Approximately 60 people have been cryogenically preserved, and another 600 "cryonicists" are signed up for future preservation. Many cryonicists, reasoning that the brain is where memories and personality reside, have signed up to have only their brains or heads preserved. In a cryogenic preservation, the blood is washed out and the body is cooled after legal death, then the body is perfused with a cryoprotective agent, further cooled to -196 degrees Celsius, and stored. (This temperature is the temperature of liquid nitrogen, which is readily available, and is cold enough to enable indefinite storage without biological deterioration.) The perfusion process, cryoprotective agent, and cooling process are all crude at this point. For those who are already cryopreserved, it is uncertain whether the nanotechnologies of the future will be able to perform adequate repair at the molecular level to the damage caused by the dying process and the cryopreservation, and whether such repair would be sufficient to restore memory and personality. For obvious reasons, living cryonicists are eager to see improvements in cryogenic preservation technology. Research Plan Takes Shape The research will attempt to convincingly demonstrate the fully reversible cryopreservation of a mammalian brain. "Reversible" means that memory and mental functions would be recovered to the same extent as would be recovered from a similarly traumatic surgical procedure. The scientists retained by the Prometheus Project will tackle two challenges: developing the cryopreservation techniques; and objectively measuring their efficacy in preserving memory and mental function. Consequently, both cryobiologists and neurobiologists will participate. The Prometheus Project will seek to retain the most qualified scientists available. Among cryopreservation techniques, perhaps the most promising is vitrification. In this technique, the blood in the organ to be preserved is replaced with a solution of cryoprotectant chemicals. The cryoprotectants do not crystalize at low temperatures; rather, they behave as glass, becoming solid without crystalization. The difficulties faced by the cryobiologists working on the Prometheus Project will be, first, to find cryoprotectants that behave as glass in the brain at deep, cryogenic temperatures and that are not toxic to the brain; second, to develop perfusion techniques that enable thorough perfusion of the brain with these cryoprotectants; and third, to develop re-warming techniques that do not create crystalization or leave the brain without oxygen at warm temperature for too long. Medical research institutions, such as the Red Cross, have made substantial investments over the past decade to perfect cryopreservation of transplantable organs. This work has shown steady progress, with viable kidneys now recoverable from temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celsius. Although the cryoprotectants used are organ-specific, these past efforts will help the Prometheus Project get off to a fast start. The project's neurobiologists have a different challenge: measuring brain function, especially in a brain severed from the body. To meet both challenges, the research likely will proceed in stages. Stage 1 is the development and demonstration, by light and electron microscopy, of good histologic preservation after rewarming from -140 degrees Celsius. Stage 2 is the recovery of mammalian brains after rewarming from -140 degrees Celsius, with viability and restoration of memory demonstrated by electrophysiological study of isolated brains. Stage 3 is a demonstration of complete neurological recovery in a large animal model after cryopreservation of the brain to low sub zero temperatures. Two alternative approaches that are being considered for Stage 3 are retaining the brain in the body, but isolating its vasculature ("in situ"), and isolating the brain and head from the body entirely. Pledge Campaign Enters New Phase To date, the pledge campaign is the Prometheus Project. Perhaps most remarkable about Wakfer's pledge campaign is that the $3 million has been pledged despite an almost total lack of publicity. The first $1 million was pledged within two weeks after Wakfer posted his Prometheus proposal on an Internet private list with 22 subscribers. The next $2 million was pledged within the next six weeks, after Wakfer began posting information on the Cryonet list, which has 282 subscribers, and on the newsgroup sci.cryonics. Recently, a number of cryonics publications have stepped forward to help Wakfer spread the word. Organizations of futurists and life extensionists have volunteered as well to help with publicity. Wakfer and project supporters are planning a series of meetings across the United States and Canada to discuss the project. Local organizations, such as the Life Extension Society, are volunteering to help with on-site arrangements. Business Plan Takes Shape Wakfer has set minimum pledge amounts of $1,000 per year for 10 years or $8,000 in one lump sum in the first year. For administrative ease, Wakfer has requested that pledges above the minimum be in thousand dollar increments ($100 per year). If the new company is created and a pledger approves the research plan and the business plan, he (she) would sign a share purchase agreement for the amount of his (her) pledge. An individual likely will have a number of options regarding the purchase of shares. Much depends on whether or not the individual is signed up for cryonic suspension and on whether or not he expects his shares to appreciate in value. Among the options that have been discussed thus far are the following: * To purchase shares directly and hold them. * To purchase shares and to have them transferable to his cryonics organization when needed for his (her) cryopreservation. The shares would thus contribute towards payment for the newer and possibly more expensive technology which the project may develop. * To donate the pledged amount to a cryonics or life extension organization that qualifies as a charitable organization, with an instruction to use the donation for share purchases, and to deduct the contribution from taxable income. The organization, in turn, would pool donated funds and purchase a block of shares in the new research company. Organizations that qualify as charitable organizations and that have offered to pool donated funds include the American Cryonics Society, CryoCare Foundation, and the Life Extension Foundation. (The Alcor Life Extension Foundation and the Immortalist Society are still deciding whether to take part. The Life Extension Society currently is seeking designation from the IRS as a charitable organization and has not offered to pool funds at this time.) Wakfer currently proposes that each share be credited at up to three times face value toward the fees for any patented and licensed technology resulting from the research. For instance, if a cryonics organization seeks to purchase patented perfusate, or to license equipment, for which the fee is $15,000, it could redeem $5,000 of shares instead. This feature is designed to induce investment by organizations that expect to use the technology. This feature also will induce investment by individuals who hope to benefit from the technology. For instance, if an individual has transferred shares worth $5,000 to his cryonics organization, the organization could redeem the shares toward the $15,000 fee and use the technology in his cryopreservation. Wakfer cautions that this proposal is no guarantee that useful technologies would be discovered or developed, and no guarantee that the investor would get his money back in any manner. Implications of the Research Even if the researchers cannot demonstrate reversible cryopreservation within 10 years, they may discover useful techniques and materials that can be patented and licensed. This would provide additional funds to continue pursuit of the research goal and reward the investors who risked their funds to support the research. It is expected, there would be spinoffs in fields such as transplantation, surgery, and emergency medicine. If the researchers succeed in demonstrating the reversible cryopreservation of a mammalian brain, the financial and social impacts could be dramatic. Cryonicists would be ecstatic. They would have proof that, in principle, a life can be extended indefinitely -- that death can be defeated. The quality of their own cryopreservations would be improved dramatically, with a greater likelihood of restoration. Cryonicist and life extensionist Bill Faloon says, "Investing in brain cryopreservation research is a direct assault on death. If we truly want to conquer aging and death, it is imperative that we support this exciting project. Faloon's partner, Saul Kent, asserts, "I believe this research is absolutely critical to my survival. I believe a well-funded program to perfect brain cryopreservation will lead to major growth in the cryonics movement, the achievement of whole-body suspended animation, the acceleration of anti-aging and rejuvenation research, and the eventual achievement of physical immortality. I urge everyone who values their lives to participate in this revolutionary project." According to author and cryonicist Charles Platt, "I can think of few developments as important to the human race -- and to me personally -- as reversible brain cryopreservation." Cryonics is an infant industry, and the Prometheus Project, if successful, would help the cryonics industry grow up fast. The ranks of cryonicists would swell with those who want to live long, healthy lives and who would come to see cryonics as "life extension of last resort," or a "time machine" to bridge the gap between their normal life spans and the time when anti-aging and rejuvenation therapies become available. The swelling ranks would enable economies of scale, driving down the cost of brain cryopreservation. Perhaps brain cryopreservation would become an optional standard medical procedure for terminal conditions. The major implications of such a discovery are ethical, legal, and social. So long as a person's memories and identity are preserved, can that person be said to be dead? Would not anyone with a terminal condition have not only the right to die without prologation of pain, but an equal "right to suspended animation" under optimum conditions, before his brain is destroyed by the dying process? According to Wakfer, "None of us wants to be in the last generation that has to die." For More Information Paul Wakfer can be reached in the United States at 1220 East Washington St., Suite 24, Colton, CA 92324. His US phone number 909-481-9620 and his US pager is 800-805-2870. In Canada, he can be reached at 238 Davenport Rd., Suite 240, Toronto, ON M5R 1J6. His phone in Canada is 416-968-6291 and his pager is 416-446-9461. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. News and discussion of the Prometheus Project may be found on the Internet on the newsgroup sci.cryonics and in the Cryonet list. To subscribe, send email to: email@example.com with the following in the message body (not in the subject line): subscribe cryonet. A list of Cryonet messages mentioning the project is on the Internet at http://www.access.digex.net/~kfl/les/cryonet/kPrometheusProject.html. A private list, Prometheus Forum, has been set up for pledgers only. Upcoming Events BioPreservation, Inc. will hold a training session in cryonic stabilization (cryonics field techniques), September 3-12, 1996 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The Alcor Foundation will be featured on the Discovery Channel program, "Why Things Are," September 15, 1996 at 9:00 P.M. The next LES meeting is Sunday, September 15, at 2:00 P.M. at Exhibits, Inc., 4929 Wyaconda Road, Rockville, MD 20852. This will be a business meeting. Topics of discussion include the Prometheus Project (see article this issue), equipment, and training. The next LES cookout/party is coming this fall. Invitations will be mailed to members and subscribers in mid-September. Come to meet other members and subscribers and compare "recipes" for a long and healthy life! The eagerly awaited documentary, "Cryonics: Souls on Ice" probably will air on the Discovery Channel on Sunday evening, October 20, 1996. The Fourth Annual Anti-Aging Medicine Conference will be held December 14-16, 1996 in Las Vegas at the Alexis Park Hotel. Contact the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine at 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2400, Chicago IL 60611-4267. Phone 312-622-7401; Fax 312-622-1071. The Alcor Foundation's ACT (Advancing Cryonics Technology) Festival will be held January 31-February 2, 1997 at Alcor in Scottsdale, Arizona. Magnificent Feast Highlights LES Summer Party While husband Duncan Forbes barbecued himself and some chicken in the summer sun, wife and rocketeer Margaret Jordan served happy LES members, subscribers, and friends with a veritable feast of food and stories at the LES summer party on June 22, 1996. Although the secret chicken recipe was not divulged, recipes for long and healthy lives were exchanged. Fifteen or so people came, and all had a good time. Much thanks to Duncan and Margaret, and let's look forward to LES's fall bash! Equipment and Training Update LES has procured the materials for construction of a portable ice bath. Design is nearly complete. Construction will take place after the September 15, 1996 LES meeting. The LES Board has agreed to finance training for LES member Keith Lynch in cryonic stabilization procedures. Lynch will be trained from September 3 through September 12, 1996 by BioPreservation, Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. BPI is the cryopreservation contractor to the CryoCare Foundation. Lynch will share his new knowledge (other than proprietary information) with LES members at a future date. Look for an article in a future issue of the LES News.