Cryogenics: Is It Worth Waiting For


Imagine being frozen in time to escape a deadly illness, then getting
warmed when a cure is found. There is question on whether cryogenic methods
should be used. To fully understand cryogenics a knowledge of cold, background
information on some branches of cryogenics, some problems with cryopresevation,
and different peoples views towards cryogenics is needed.

"Cold is usually considered hostile to mankind. Most people hate cold and
with reasons." If not careful, cold can be deadly to animal and human life, but
it can also help cure, because cold bodies perform functions slower (Kavaler 16-
17). Measurement of temperature is extremely important in cryogenics and the
temperatures must be exact. The standard for scientific temperature measurement
is the Kelvin scale. On the Kelvin scale absolute zero has a value of zero
degrees on the thermometer. In theory no substance can be lowered to or below
zero degrees Kelvin or absolute zero. Temperatures in cryobiology range from
zero degrees Celsius--water freezes--to just above negative two hundred and
seventy three point sixteen degrees Celsius--absolute zero. The word
"Cryogenics" comes from the Greek word “kryos” meaning cold (“Cryogenics”
Raintree 127, Kavaler 16). The science of cryobiology was first recognized in
the early nineteen sixties. Cryobiology is the study of the effects of
extremely low temperatures on living animals and plants. The chief concern in
cryobiology is to preserve living matter for future use. This method can also
be called cryopreservation. Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold in treatment.
The first trials of cryotherapy proved with great results (“Cryobiology”
Comptons 1, McGrady 97).

Frozen cells can be kept alive for very long periods of time in a state
of “suspended animation.” Almost immediately after rapid thawing, the frozen
cells regain normal activity. Cooling of the body causes a loss of feeling,
therefore it can be used as anesthesia in surgery. Since certain drugs don’t
affect healthy cells at low temperatures, the drugs can be safely used against
cancerous tumors in the body. Cryogenics also helps in the preservation and
storage of human tissues. Tissues such as eye corneas, skin, and blood that
were rapidly frozen can be stored in “banks” for later use. Then skin can be
grafted to burn victims and eye corneas can replace damaged ones. Thanks to
Cryobiology blood can be frozen and stored for indefinitely for many years as
opposed to only three weeks as it was before cryogenic technology was used.
Surgeons can use a cryoscapel, freezing tips, to deaden or destroy tissue with
great accuracy and little bloodshed (“Cryogenics” Academic 350, “Cryobiology”
World Book 929). Scientists use a liquid gas called liquid nitrogen to freeze
and store cells. Some could problems also occur in cryogenics. If cells are
not frozen fast enough they will explode and die. Many biological reactions may
take place in temperatures as low as negative nine degrees Celsius. And, ice
crystals, which form as temperatures as low as negative one hundred and thirty
degrees Celsius, will destroy the frozen cells (Allen 38, “Cryobiology” Gale
1029).

Following are the views of two people involved with cryogenics. Mr.
Young, a biology teacher with a working knowledge of cryogenics, thinks
cryobiology should be used to preserve endangered species. He doesn’t see the
technology for freezing a whole body but maybe body organs in the near future.
Mr. Young believes the money that would be needed to improve the technology
could be better spent, which is a controversy in itself. If given a chance Mr.
Young would enter his body into cryopreservation for the benefit science (Young
interview). Whereas, an America On-Line--AOL--user with an interest in
cryogenics feels when cryopreservation becomes a reality for an entire body, if
people are willing and have the money, they should enter their bodies into
cryopreservation. He thinks the shock of waking up in a new age of time could
be dangerous to ones mental health (AOL interview).

Cryogenics is important because it could save and improve life
in many ways. Cryopreservation, a branch of cryobiology, has the main purpose
of preserving living matter, plant or animal, for future use. Cryogenics could
save the planet from extinction of endangered species. Scientist could save the
gametes, the sperm and the eggs, of endangered that can be fertilized and raised
when the environment is able to handle them. Cryopreservation should be used on
humans who want to use it. Many people are willing to take the risk of being
suspended or maybe even lost in time for a chance to live life again.

Works Cited

Allen, Richard J. Cryogenics. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippencott Company,1964. AOL
user. Internet interview. 6 January 1997. Coxeter, Ruth. “The Deep