Have you ever pondered being frozen? Being completely solidified or chilled has become a meme used throughout film pop culture. Most often, people remember Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin (1997) or Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man (1993), who was cryogenically frozen for number of years.
Despite the popularity of freezing people now and thawing them safely down the road in fiction, freezing living tissue without damage has proved to be a difficult task, and few organisms are able to do it without harm.
For one example of this happening in nature, we can look to Leanne Grieves’ “Zoological Investigation” from the Jan. 27 edition of the Manitoban featuring the wood frog, an animal that secretes an internal intercellular fluid that prevents liquids in cells from freezing.
Cell damage from freezing occurs because water is the most abundant compound found in all living cellular organisms and when it freezes it forms crystals. Once this crystallization occurs, cells are subject to damage from the sharp edges of the frozen fluid.
Enter the CAS or Cell Alive System, created by a Japanese company called ABI. While one may assume that it could have been invented to freeze maximum-security prisoners, the technology was actually invented for the food storage market. Currently, it is commonly used for sub-zero storage of high-end fish, such as the kind used in premium sushi, to preserve taste and texture.
According to the singularityhub.com, the freezer vibrates water molecules in the to-be-frozen object with electromagnetic fields. This minute and rapid movement prevents the water molecules from freezing in the -10 C environments while preserving the food.
This technology is proven and can be seen in a demonstration on YouTube, where a water bottle is removed from a CAS freezer with liquid water visible. The person removing the bottle then smacks it against the door, interrupting the vibrations and causing it to freeze solid instantaneously.
So what’s the big deal? Freezing humans is impossible, right? Well, recently researchers at Hiroshima University began running experiments with freezing human teeth. The CAS freezer is able to preserve the teeth and the connecting ligaments entirely. Dr. Toshitsugu Kawata, a professor at Hiroshima University, who has also done extensive research with the Japanese tooth bank, heads the research. According to the Taipei Times, there is an 87 per cent success rate of tooth reimplantation with teeth that have been frozen in a CAS freezer.
Norio Owada, the founder of ABI Corporation, is interested in exploring where this technology may lead in the medical world. For example, in a 2008 Forbes article, Owada said, “If you could preserve a heart for three days, you could fly it anywhere.”
Currently, organ transportation such as transporting kidneys consists of injecting a preservative and putting the organ in an ice box. Ultimately, transportation time is very limited and the longer the organ is left on ice, the less likely it is to be accepted in the new body right away or even at all.
In the works right now is something called the LifePort Kidney Transporter. It works by pumping a preservative fluid through the kidney at temperature between one and 10 C.
Typically success rates with standard ice box transportation were very low, at only around 15 to 50 per cent.
A study was performed through out Europe with 336 pairs of kidneys. Each kidney was randomly assigned a transportation method and the patients were then followed for one year. Researchers noted a 43 per cent increase in the likelihood a patient’s body would accept the kidney without delay when machine transportion was used compared to conventional icebox transportation.
The possibility of cryogenically freezing people will likely not occur for decades, but we are one step closer. Furthermore, thousands of lives can be saved if better organ storage and transpiration systems are readily available for patients undergoing scheduled or emergency transplants; with Norio Owada’s freezing technology, I believe we can get there,