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Reversible Cryogenic Preservation Demonstrated

The team of Michelle Olga Visser and Siegfried Visser, a cryobiologist
and consulting engineer, respectively, demonstrated the apparently
reversible cryopreservation of rat hearts at the CryoSearch research
facility in Scottsdale, Arizona in August, 1996.

In experiments over a span of several days, the Vissers perfused a
number of rat hearts with a new cryoprotective agent (CPA), froze the
hearts to within a few degrees of liquid nitrogen temperature (minus
320 degrees Fahrenheit), and then rewarmed the hearts.  Behold, three
of the hearts began to beat again, one strongly.  A mammalian organ
had survived an incredible journey.

Mrs. Visser is the Head of Research at the Department of Thoracic
Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
She is an experienced perfusionist and a Ph.D. candidate in
cryobiology.  She started the first homograft bank in Pretoria eight
years ago and has been doing research in organ cryopreservation for
the last three years.

The Vissers say that they also have frozen and revived rat livers
and a pig's heart at their lab in Pretoria.  The technique has been
patented or has patents pending in South Africa, the United States,
Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union nations.  With
three co-authors, Mrs. Visser submitted a paper on her experiments to
Cryobiology in December, 1995 and is revising it for publication.  Her
recent experiments at CryoSearch demonstrated the techniques and CPA
used in the soon-to-be-published research.

Visser's result is of immediate importance to cryobiology and
transplantation research.  Cryobiologists study the effects of low
temperatures on organisms, from hibernating frogs and salamanders to
organs cold-stored for transplantation.  Preserving whole organs for
transplantation has been a goal of cryobiologists for decades.  Thus
far, only certain types of cells and tissues, such as sperm, embryos
and small blood vessels, have been frozen and re-warmed for use.

The problem is freezing itself.  Ice formation is virtually
unstoppable.  An ice crystal pierces all cell structures in its path,
causing great destruction.

CPA's are chemical concoctions, usually involving sugar-based
molecules, that mimic chemicals produced in the bodies of hibernating
amphibians.  These amphibians' bodies actually fall below freezing
temperatures, but the sugars in their blood cause the cells to shrink
so that ice forms between the cells rather than forming within the
cells and destroying them.

If a CPA can be perfected that permits the deep-freezing of an organ,
the organ can be stored indefinitely, giving doctors time to test the
organ for disease or find an optimum match with a recipient.  Animal
models are used to perfect each CPA before being used on human organs.
Hence, Visser's research could be the first step in perfecting a CPA
for human hearts or other organs.

Some cryobiologists are skeptical, waiting to see the published
results or claiming that funds would be better spent on finding ways
to reduce organ rejection by recipients.

The CryoSearch facility is associated with the Alcor Life Extension
Foundation, a cryonics organization also located in Scottsdale.  Alcor
and the Cryonics Institute (CI), of Clinton Township, Michigan, teamed
up to fly the South African researchers to Scottsdale.  Cryonicists
believe that this type of cryobiological research eventually will
result in a way to reversibly cryopreserve human brains and bodies.

The Vissers are raising money for the next research step, transplantation
of a revived organ into a lab animal.  They hope that their
transplantation experiments will lead to human cryogenic organ banking.

Alcor and CI have agreed to help the Vissers obtain financing for
further research.  (Alcor Director Dave Pizer is heading up Alcor's
part of the fund raising drive.)  In return, the Vissers have given
Alcor and CI exclusive license to use their current and future
technology for cryonics purposes.  This includes the right to

After Alcor and CI announced the results of the Visser's visit, lively
discussions ensued among cryonicists.  One topic of discussion was
the relationship of the Vissers' work to the Prometheus Project, a
multi-million dollar research project into the cryopreservation of
mammalian brains that is being spearheaded by Paul Wakfer (See LES
News, 1996 no. 3, July 1996).

Wakfer states that the Prometheus Project will investigate the most
promising technologies, no matter what they may be.  In addition
to the Vissers' techniques, a second cryopreservation method to be
considered for the Prometheus research is called vitrification.
With vitrification, a CPA is used and temperature and pressure are
controlled so that the fluids in the organ under study solidify
without crystallization, that is, they behave as a glass.

The differences between Wakfer's project and the Alcor/CI initiative
are twofold: 1) Wakfer is collecting pledges ($3 million plus so far)
for a future effort, while Alcor/CI are applying their funds to
current research; and 2) Wakfer's effort is focused on cryonics (the
market for transplantable brains being limited), while the Visser's
efforts have more immediate application to organ and tissue banking.

Rather than being in competition with the Prometheus Project, the
Vissers' research, if successful, could lend credibility to Wakfer's
longer-term effort.  If the Visser techniques do not prove out, the
Prometheus Project simply would focus on other techniques.

This article was adapted from a World Wide Web posting of September
22, 1996 by Samuel Blackman and from an article in the September, 1996
Alcor Phoenix.

LES Member Completes Training in Cryogenic Preservation

LES member Keith Lynch participated in the BioPreservation, Inc.
training course in human cryopreservation, which was held from
September 3 to September 10, 1996 at the BioPreservation laboratory in
Rancho Cucamonga, California.

The course covered the first phases of human cryopreservation: standby
and transport, also collectively known as "cryonic stabilization."
The primary instructors for the course were Mike Darwin, Steven
B. Harris, M.D., and Carlotta Pengelley, L.V.N.  BioPreservation is
the cryopreservation contractor for the CryoCare Foundation and also
has performed cryopreservations for the American Cryonics Society.

[Author's note: The Alcor Foundation periodically offers a similar
course in standby and transport, which is taught by Tanya Jones and
Hugh Hixon, among others.  The course curriculum is very similar,
although the materials and techniques used differ in many particulars.]

The objective of the course was to familiarize the graduate with the
principles and techniques to give ethical and quality care to the
terminally ill cryopreservation patient.  Specific areas covered were:

* Psychology of death, dying and bereavement relating to cryonics.
* Psychosocial support and intervention during standby and transport for
  the cryo-patient and his/her family.
* Interface with primary care personnel to insure optimum cryopreservation.
* Interface with hospice programs for cryonics compatible terminal care.
* Premedication of the cryopreservation patient for prophylaxis of
  ischemic injury before legal death: pharmacologic, logistic and
  legal considerations.
* Site assessment and logistic considerations in deploying for a local
  or remote Standby.
* Pathophysiology of cerebral ischemic injury.
* Administrative procedures: record keeping, data acquisition, quality control.
* Cardiopulmonary support: options, evaluation and intervention.
* External and internal (non-extracorporeal) cooling.
* Establishing IV access.
* Preparation and administration of medications to inhibit
  ischemia-reperfusion injury.
* Physical transportation of the patient to the cryoprotective
  perfusion facility.
* Infection control in the standby and transport setting.

Included in the above was training in using the newly developed,
pneumatically driven, high impulse, active compression - decompression
CPR units and the newly developed technique of liquid ventilation.
Technical training was hands-on using animal models.

Keith has prepared an extensive trip report, which is available from LES.
In addition, each trainee received a course manual, portions of which are

Material in this article is from the BioPreservation course announcement.

Dr. Michael Fossel Discusses "Reversing Human Aging"

Dr. Michael Fossel, M.D., Ph.D., gave a presentation on "Reversing
Human Aging" at the National Institutes of Health's Natcher Center on
April 16, 1996.  The presentation was sponsored by the Smithsonian
Institution's Smithsonian Associates.  LES members and subscribers
were notified of the talk, and a number of LES members attended.

For years, Dr. Fossel has studied progeria and related accelerated
aging syndromes.  He is convinced that the evidence from these
diseases, together with the fact that germ cells and cancer cells
do not age, indicates that aging is a regulated process, that is, a
function of gene expression, and not a function of "wear and tear."
His recent book, "Reversing Human Aging," reviews recent research into
"telomere" that identifies a mechanism for the regulation of aging.

This research shows that telomere, or "nonsense" DNA at the end of
each chromosome, is shortened with each cell division in dividing
cells.  Telomere functions like the tip of a shoelace.  Snip off
the tip bit by bit, and eventually the shoelace will unravel.  Once
telomere in a dividing cell becomes too short, the cell unravels,
that is, it ceases to divide, senesces, and dies.

This explains why we have limited life spans, why calorie restriction
and other methods that slow down metabolism and cell division may
extend life, and why progeria victims have short lives (they are born
with already-shortened telomere).  Why, then, don't we just stay young
and healthy, then drop like rocks at our appointed time?  The answer
is that on each chromosome the regulatory genes are located near
the tips, that is, near the telomere, and the expression of these
regulatory genes is influenced by telomere length.  With each division
beyond a certain point, the regulatory genes in dividing cells get a
little more out of whack.

Germ cells and cancer cells are the exception.  They are immortal
because they produce an enzyme, telomerase, that replaces the telomere
that otherwise would be lost in each division.  It doesn't restore
already lost telomere, but it prevents further losses.

Organisms with telomere-limited cells have a survival advantage
because damaged or mutated telomere-limited cells die off before they
can kill the organism.  Cancer, in which telomerase production is
turned on, is the exception.

Although gene expression leads to cell disfunction after numerous
divisions, changes in gene expression early in life are important to
individual development, maturation, and reproduction.  Telomere may be
involved in the master "clock" that regulates both maturational and
senescent changes in gene expression.  (Death, then, would be the
inadvertent byproduct of the continued ticking of the "clock" after
maturation and reproduction had been taken care of.)

Unfortunately, achieving immortality is not simply a matter of
introducing telomerase into normal cells.  First, some types of cells
do not divide (heart muscle or brain cells, for instance).  Second,
many potentially cancerous cells fail to become immortal and die off
because they do not also become telomerase-producing.  Introducing
telomerase wholesale would enable runaway mutant cells to divide

Perhaps some day we will be able to enable normal cells to produce
telomerase and to limit telomerase production in abnormal cells.
Right now, research into telomerase inhibition (cancer control) is
ahead of research into telomerase induction.

Dr. Fossel cautions that advances in telomerase induction may not
significantly extend lives right away.  There are still too many other
things -- viruses, bacteria, trauma, poison, genetic errors -- that
can happen to bodies.

LES Members Host "Life Extension and Nanotechnology" Party

LES members Greg F*hy and Nooshin Mesbah-Karimi hosted the LES fall
bash on November 10, 1996.  The party, which had the theme of "Life
Extension and Nanotechnology," offered party-goers the opportunity to
share their interests and learn from each other about life extension,
nutrition, anti-aging medicine and biology, nanotechnology, and cryonics.

In addition to some LES regulars, a number of new faces in the
sciences and medicine chose to come.  Nearly thirty people came in
all.  Many thanks to Greg and Nooshin!

LES Meeting To Lay Plans for 1997

The next LES meeting will take place on December 8, 1996 at President
Mark Mugler's house, 990 N. Powhatan St., Arlington.  The meeting will
focus on 1997 and beyond: priorities for outreach, public information,
and equipment acquisition and training; funding needs; dues; the slate
of candidates for 1997 offices; and similar matters.  LES members are

From Route 66 westbound, take Sycamore Street exit, turn left under
the overpass.  From Route 66 eastbound, exit for Washington Blvd.,
turn right at 2nd light (Sycamore) under the overpass.  Follow
Sycamore about 1/3 mile.  Take last left before light (11th Road).
Turn right at T and take immediate left (still on 11th road).  Three
short blocks.  Right on Powhatan.  House is near end of block on right.

Upcoming Events

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

The Alcor Foundation's ACT (Advancing Cryonics Technology) Festival
will be held January 31-February 2, 1997 at Alcor in Scottsdale,