One Michigan cryogenics lab is promising people the chance at a longer life that extends even after they die. Though the practice is more fiction than science at this point, the hope is that in the future, cryo-preserved bodies will be revived when cures for diseases are found. The Cryonics Institute was founded in 1976 by Robert Ettinger, a physics and math college professor who believed that cooling a body to extreme temperatures would preserve it so that the dead could be revived later. Ettinger himself was placed in cryogenic stasis when he was declared legally dead in 2011.
So, does cryogenics work? No one will know until the day comes that scientists feel prepared to revive those people who have elected to have their bodies preserved in the hope that one day they will have a second shot at life. People pay tens of thousands of dollars on this gamble, made riskier by the fact that, at this point, it is an inexact science. Not only do these optimistic people believe there will one day be a future where diseases are cured, but that someday there will be a way to revive the already dead. Of course, no human has ever been revived after being put in a cryogenic state, so guests of the Cryonics Institute are putting quite a bit on the line. Then again, they're already dead.
Here's everything we do know about this strange home for those searching for more than the "usual" afterlife.
The procedure for preparing a body for cryogenic stasis is a complicated one. Freezing a body also means not damaging it further so that, in theory, it can be brought back to life when a cure for the patient's death is found. One of the processes necessary for this is draining the blood from the body, preserving it, and replacing it with a "cryoprotectant–medical-grade antifreeze."
The technical term for this is vitrification and it helps protect the body from the harmful effects of being frozen solid.
Almost immediately after a patient dies, their body is prepared to be frozen. The first step after a person is declared legally dead is to attach a hear-lung resuscitator to their body to keep their blood flowing. After that, the lab administers 16 drugs to the patient designed to stop the crystallization process that would normally occur when they are frozen.
People who elect to be cryogenically frozen do so knowing that currently no human being has ever been successfully revived. There have been insects and even eels that have been brought back after being frozen, but the best scientists have been able to do for humans is revive some types of tissues. The Cryonics Institute is confident that the procedure will be successful in the future.
Part of the appeal of Cryonics is the idea that death is not permanent. The lab describes death as a process rather than an event. Their ultimate goal is extending life and hopefully achieving immortality. The company asserts that because the body's cells continue living even after the heart stops beating, a person can be revived once medical procedures or nanotechnology finds the cure for the cause of death for their patients.