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Neural cryopreservation: a scientific view on cryonics?

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

In my current EPSRC UKRI Innovation Fellowship project I work on the cryopreservation of neural tissue. Cryonicists hope that in a distant future it will be possible to re-awake cryopreserved people (or their brains) and treat them with advanced biomedical technology.

I am fascinated by the prospect of cryopreserving organs and entire organisms. If possible, it would be the only practical way to beat illnesses and diseases for which there currently exists no cure. To this date, there is no proof that mammalian neural tissue, including the intricate networks of neurons and their physiological state, can be cryopreserved.

However, there is evidence for the plausibility. For instance, immature retinal organoids can be cryopreserved with high post-thaw quality. Moreover, primitive species such as the nematode C. elegans can be cryopreserved while retaining their memories.

One further, crucial question is whether cryonics could be a way to beat information-theoretic death: if neural circuits are frozen and thawed, does this mean that information that is essential for the correct functioning of the underlying neural networks is lost? Doubtlessly, more research is also required to answer this pivotal question. In our ongoing research in my team we are gaining precious information about what are the most promising methods and protocols for neural tissue cryopreservation. To this end, we focus on the murine retina.

Please get in touch if you are interested to learn more about our work.

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