A post from Paul Wakfer, a prominent cryonicist

From: john grigg (starman125@hotmail.com)
Date: Sun Aug 06 2000 - 02:05:35 MDT

Hello everyone,

This is a very fascinating post from cryonet which was written by prominent
cryonicist Paul Wakfer. In terms of informing us what the current state of
cryonics is along with some very interesting past history I would say all
should read this. I greatly respect Paul for his noble Prometheus Project
which failed for reasons he gives here. I am glad my friend is feeling good
about life...


Message #14245
Date: Sat, 05 Aug 2000 04:52:55 -0400
From: Paul Wakfer <wakfer@gte.net>
Newsgroups: sci.cryonics
Subject: Re: #14229 - Where is a current summary?
References: <200008030900.FAA15701@rho.pair.com>

While 99% of CryoNet postings were busy with brain masturbation, the
following request for information about reality went totally unanswered:

>Message #14229
>From: RAMole@aol.com
>Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 02:23:11 EDT
>Subject: Where is a current summary?
>Greetings All:
>This is a request for a pointer to a site that summarizes the current
> >state-of-the-art.

There is no site where this is all summarized. The information is very
scattered, and/or not yet written down. This is mainly the result of the
constant infighting which goes on in a fringe group like the world of
cryonics, for control of the very small pond in which all these frogs are
croaking to each other.

>Two or three years ago I found material which put me pretty well up on

Now where might you have found that? the Prometheus Project (PP)
website, perhaps?

>As I recall the overall status, vitrification was promising and it appeared
>crystalization might be prevented during freezing by using a high pressure
>chamber. However it tended to occur during thawing too unless very high
>rates were used.

This was only an interim step during the research which Greg Fahy was
doing to reversibly cryopreserve kidneys. In fact, not only was it
always deemed impractical for whole body humans, but he very soon found that
the pressure itself induced additional unrecoverable damage, and soon after
abandoned the pressure approach.

>It was impossible to achieve such rates (and -- was there a
>uniformity problem with some regions remaining too cold?) [Is this still

No. All those ideas have been superseded now. 21st Century Medicine (21CM)
has developed ice blockers and new cryoprotectants which enable
vitrification at high enough cryoprotectant (CPA) concentrations that
recrystallization during thawing should be
avoidable at the rate of warming which can be reasonably achieved.

All of this has been hastened by the development by Critical Care
Research (CCR - a split-off of the original 21CM) of perfluorocarbon
perfusion methods which allow very rapid cooling and warming of whole
bodies even, right down to the vitrification holding temperatures

Basically, things are looking exceedingly optimistic that perfected
whole body suspended animation could be "just around the corner", if we
could only get these short-sighted, head-in-the-sand, money-hoarding
cryonicists to fork over the necessary cash. I hasten to add that my
comments do not apply to those few wonderful, courageous, and fully rational
people who have monetarily supported all the research to achieve these
goals, and, of course, to the researchers themselves.
As it is, the work of proving out, completing development, and
perfecting the breakthroughs outlined above is ongoing, albeit at a very
slow pace.

>Overall, everything from embryos to aortas could be frozen and thawed
>successfully, but nothing bigger.

Even embryos, sperm, and some other things were only viable because they
could incur large cell loss and still recover (lots of individual sperm, and
multiple totipotent cells in an early stage embryo - the only kind which
worked). The CPA's and methods used do not produce high levels of individual
cell viability. The 21CM developments should be marketable for these
purposes so that far higher viabilities can be obtained.

>21CM thought they had money and capability
>to succeed with kidneys and that would give them money enough to go on to
>whole bodies in ten years or so.

Here you are slightly mixing up 21CM and PP. 21CM began to concentrate
on kidneys because that was the specialty and ongoing project of Greg
Fahy who had just joined them. However, I admit that your mixup is very
reasonable since the pronouncements and policies of 21CM on the subject of
suspended animation research changed back and forth so many times that even
I, a relative insider, could not keep track of them.

>Now I gather that 21CM has found improved vitrification fluids that by
>themselves leave brain slices ~95 percent functional (not after
>freeze-and-thaw, just after exposure to the fluid.)

No. This has not been demonstrated yet, partly because 21CM is not
working with brain slices. That it the research project of the Institute for
Neurocryobiology's Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation Project (HSCP) in full
cooperation with 21CM, of course. What you have read about 95% is that
*rabbit kidney* slices have been loaded and unloaded (immersed to
equilibration and then fully washed-out), with 95% recovery in comparison to
controls simply kept in a nutrient solution.

In addition, this "viability" is not assessed in terms of "functionality"
since that cannot be done for kidney slice, which are no longer "functional"
by definition. Instead the viability is only "cellular" viability as
determined by the intracellular sodium/potassium ratio, which can only be
kept stable by a cell whose mitochondrial energy cycle is completely
operational. While this is a good measure of cellular viability it does not
measure all cellular function nor does it measure intercellular
functionality which is crucial for brain tissue.

INC is now trying to garner the funds to proceed to show that the
improved CPA also give higher (than the 52% we currently have) cellular
viability for rat hippocampal slices even after vitrification and thawing.

Once that is complete, INC hopes to get back the original project of
obtaining propagation of evokes potentials across a brain slice as
outlined in the research proposal at http://neurocryo.org Of course,
this will require still more money, but if successful will give a very
meaningful and realistic demonstration that these vitrified/rewarmed
hippocampal slices have truly been through perfected suspended
animation. Whole brains will then be the next step, and thereafter whole

>And nobody else seems to be making progress.

Nobody else is even trying!! Half of them are busy counting the number
of identities on the head of a pin, and the other half are waiting for
the Nanotechnology God to save their asses while get on with life as

>Also, Prometheus had received some money but afterwards the site never
>to be updated. [Did it get more or what?]

PP was pure pledge campaign to attempt to garner sufficient support to
perfect suspended animation. It was never intended to collect any money
until it has sufficient pledges to do the project, and it never received a
cent. I personally received a few hundred dollars of support from Roy Yowell
and additional support in man-hours, particularly from Leonard Zubkoff, both
of whom I wish to thank again. It is noteworthy that these same two
individuals and many other PP pledgers also donated the funds which allowed
the HSCP to get to where it is today. In addition, there were a few people
who were not PP pledgers who also donated money to support the HSCP.

The plan for PP was to get sufficient pledges, without requiring any up
front cash,
1) to shock people into believing that the project could actually be
2) to pressure the cryonics organizations (who are all jealously
guarding their own "territory") to realize that in their own best
interest they had better jump on the bandwagon, and
3) to garner enough credibility, in terms of potential monetary support and
the establishment "legitimacy" which comes with it, that the scientists
whose support and participation was needed would write a full proposal so
that the rest of the pledged funding could be obtained.

The first of those three succeeded better than anyone (including me)
imagined that it would.

The second of these failed miserably, either because of my lack of tact and
ass-kissing ability, or because of the intransigent, pig-headedness and/or
power lust of the major cryonics leaders (of Alcor and CI), or perhaps
because they don't really want to live in a world where some upstart can
succeed where they could not. All the reasons for rejecting support for PP
were totally specious, but these leaders were and still are masters of the
art of political rationalization, casting doubt, and making false arguments
just logical enough that they are believable to naive, trusting souls. I
could not counter such tactics and do not want ever to be able to do so.

The third of these also failed miserably because I, being a naive,
trusting soul, did not make a written contractual understanding about
what the results of certain of my actions would be. Thus, I brought the
necessary leverage (PP and a pilot project proposal and available
funding which became the HSCP) to bear to cause *the* crucial scientist to
enter the cryonics research fold expecting that he would then write the full
PP science plan which was necessary to revive the pledge campaign.

However, the die was cast and I came up the loser. The scientist became
contractually obligated to those whom I had conspired with, was not to be
available to write the PP plan, and would also not be available to oversee
the project as principal investigator. In addition, the company employing
that scientist took all the wind from the PP sails by placing itself in
direct competition, even with a head start, so that it now appeared clear to
most of the previous and potential new pledgers that they could once more
feel at east to sit on their asses and spend their hard earned income on
immediate gratification or personal wealth building.

Of course, I am sure others will have a different "story" on all these
things. You will have to judge for yourself by judging what is essential and
what is inessential in all these viewpoints.

Finally, the PP website has not been updated, because there has really
been nothing positive to say, and while I had little heart to do
anything, I still thought there might be some value in keeping it there (all
at my expense, of course), if for no other reason, as a monument to "what
might have been and should have been".

>Can anyone correct and update the summary? Is there a single site where I
>can track the status and progress of the problems?

I have tried my best to do the first. If you have any questions, I will try
to answer them. As for the second it is not likely to happen while cryonics
retains the fragmented, cultist, inbred, ingrown and navel gazing state that
it now

On a personal note, I am not nearly as bitter as it may appear from the
above remarks. I am now leading an ecstatically happy and complete life,
pursuing life-extension by actually staying animated for an unbounded length
of time, and joined as tightly and solidly as two interlocked fractals with
someone with whom I am totally compatible.

If I become terminal in the near-term, I plan to toady-up to the whatever
bastard is leading the most scientific cryonics organization at the time and
do the best that I can to save my life by getting cryonically preserved. If
I become terminal in the far-term, I expect that perfected suspended
animation will be available at a nearby major medical center and that all
the current cryonics organization will either be out of business or as
insignificant relative to the rest of the world as they are today. Of
course as stated above, my highest priority is never to become
terminal at all.

Again my thanks for you questions, it was refreshing to see someone on
this list who is interested in reality rather than "dreamality."

Paul Wakfer

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