CRYO: Nature's little cryonauts

Eugene Leitl (
Tue, 3 Aug 1999 13:26:59 -0700 (PDT)

Try dumping the frozen critters into dry ice. (*That* will teach'em).

What you describe is actually not freezing, as only a minor fraction of the organism is turned to ice. Though most embryos freeze readily (survival rate is not stellar though, and some species (not humans) need some assistance), higher organisms do not. Some tardigrades and rotifers freeze trivially, Artemia cysts do very well, D. melanogaster and C. elegans (mostly L1) animals can be routinely cryopreserved even with current pretty crude means.

The ultimate in freeze hardiness are insects, however. Tenebrio molitor and Dendroides canadensis make some pretty funky iceblocker proteins, the best ones currently know to man. A nucleation inhibitor plus insect ice blocker plus the usual witch's brew of polyols/formamide/etc. could really make a difference for higher organisms, though. It might be really possible to bring back a single organ someday soon, though the jury is still out on that one.

There is currently no research on brain vitrification going on, for lack of funds. Which, imo, demonstrates the difference between words and deeds very nicely. But of course everybody knows that nanotechnology will arrive in time conveniently to save you. Right.

Jeff Fabijanic writes:
> On several occasions, one or two of the koi in my rooftop pond have escaped
> capture and relocation to the indoor tank when the weather turned cold.
> During a January thaw a couple years ago, I took the opportunity of the
> first >40 degree weather in a couple months to clean up the deck a bit.
> After I took out the 2-3 inch thick slab of ice left in the bottom of a
> mostly emptied 45 gallon container a small fish gave a little spasm in the
> melting goop. "Lucky" is still alive and kicking. Checking out books on koi
> (aka carp, aka japanese goldfish), it seems as though surviving complete
> freezing/thawing is a recognized and common ability of these animals, even
> large specimens weighing several pounds.