Frozen and brought back to life Science

Can A Human Be Frozen And Brought Back To Life?


We see it all the time in movies. A person gets frozen or put in “cryosleep” and then unfrozen at a later date with no aging taking place, or other ill effects.

Sometimes this happens on purpose, like to someone with an incurable disease hoping a cure exists in the future, or sometimes by accident, like someone getting frozen in a glacier.

Is there any science behind “cryogenics”?

The science behind it does exist and the application of the practice is called cryonics. It’s a technique used to store a persons body at an extremely low temperature with the hope of one day reviving them. This technique is being performed today, but the technology behind it is still in its infancy.

Someone preserved this way is said to be in cryonic suspension. The hope is that, if some­one has died from a disease or condition that is currently incurable, they can be “frozen” and then revived in the future when a cure has been discovered.

Why wait until you’re dead to be frozen? Won’t it be too late then?

cryonicsIt’s currently illegal to perform cryonic suspension on someone who is still alive. Those who wish to be cryogenically frozen must first be pronounced legally dead – which means their heart has stopped beating. Though, if they’re dead, how can they ever be revived?

According to companies who perform the procedure, ‘legally dead’ is not the same as ‘totally dead.’ Total death, they claim, is the point at which all brain function ceases. They claim that the difference is based on the fact that some cellular brain function remains even after the heart has stopped beating. Cryonics preserves some of that cell function so that, at least theoretically, the person can be brought back to life at a later date.

How is Cryonics Performed?

After your heart stops beating and you are pronounced legally dead, the company you signed with takes over. An emergency response team from the facility immediately gets to work. They stabilize your body by supplying your brain with enough oxygen and blood to preserve minimal function until you can be transported to the suspension facility. Your body is packed in ice and injected with an anticoagulant to prevent your blood from clotting during the trip. A medical team is on standby awaiting the arrival of your body at the cryonics facility.

After you reach the cryonics facility, the actual freezing can begin.

Don’t they just drop you in a huge pot of liquid nitrogen?

They could, and while you’d certainly be frozen, most of the cells in your body would shatter and die.

As water freezes, it expands. Since cells are made up of mostly water, freezing expands the “stuff” inside which destroys their cell walls and they die. The cryonics companies need to remove and/or replace this water. They replace it with something called a cryoprotectant. Much like the antifreeze in an automobile. cryogenically frozenThis glycerol based mixture protects your organ tissues by hindering the formation of ice crystals. This process is called “vitrification” and allows cells to live in a sort of suspended animation.

After the vitrification, your body is cooled with dry ice until it reaches -202 Fahrenheit. After this pre-cooling, it’s finally time to insert your body into the individual container that will be placed into a metal tank filled with liquid nitrogen. This will cool the body down to a temperature of around -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

The procedure isn’t cheap. It can cost up to $200,000 to have your whole body preserved. For the more frugal optimist, a mere $60,000 will preserve your brain with an option known as neurosuspension. They hope the technology in the future will allow them to clone or regenerate the rest of the body.

So does it work?

Many critics say the companies that perform cryonics are simply ripping off customers with the dream of immortality and they won’t deliver. It doesn’t help that the scientists who perform cryonics say they haven’t successfully revived anyone, and don’t expect to be able to do so anytime soon. The largest hurdle is that, if the warming process isn’t done at exactly the right speed and temperature, the cells could form ice crystals and shatter.

cryonicsDespite the fact that no human placed in a cryonic suspension has yet been revived, some living organisms can be, and have been, brought back from a dead or near-dead state. CPR and Defibrillators can bring accident and heart attack victims back from the dead daily.

Neurosurgeons often cool patients’ bodies so they can operate on aneurysms without damaging or rupturing the nearby blood vessels. Human embryos that are frozen in fertility clinics, defrosted and implanted in a mother’s uterus grow into perfectly normal human beings. Some frogs and other amphibians have a protein manufactured by their cells that act as a natural antifreeze which can protect them if they’re frozen completely solid.

Cryobiologists are hopeful that nanotechnology will make revival possible someday. Nanotechnology can use microscopic machines to manipulate single atoms to build or repair virtually anything, including human cells and tissues. They hope one day, nanotechnology will repair not only the cellular damage caused by the freezing process, but also the damage caused by aging and disease.

Some cryobiologists have predicted that the first cryonic revival might occur as early as year 2045.


46 Comments on Can A Human Be Frozen And Brought Back To Life?

  1. Ava

    Ummm, just putting this out there, I know that it would be a huge breakthrough if scientists created a way to bring the dead back to life, but wouldn’t that not be such a good idea to do it a lot? I know it won’t happen any time soon, but if at sometime it does become a regular thing, then Humans would loose the reason to be careful at some point. And what if someone wants to die? They might be revived without wanting to be. Then that would just be a waste, even though if it was depression and they could be treated…… And the last and biggest of problems, IF this becomes regular, IF all of that has happened, then after a long time, the world would be too full. There would be no room for more, and then what? People that were old and ready to use the thing wouldn’t be able to, because the world would be to cramped. Just something to think about, -Ava

    • Croix

      Well, we aren’t freezing criminals. We are freezing people that are voluntarily giving their body to cryogenics labs for the purpose of being revived later on. It’s their personal choice, you cannot deny someone life if they wish to live. As for those who kill themselves, they cannot be revived as they would have caused so much damage to their body in order to kill themselves that reviving by any means would be time consuming and ridiculous. Life isn’t something meaningless, even if it becomes widely available. There is only so much damage someone can do to their body before it becomes beyond repair. Plus, it’s near impossible to ever think that a body left dead and already rotting could be revived, not that scientists don’t have the technology but because repairing EVERY single cell is a waste of time and if the person did not pay to be revived in case of death when they were living, then they would be left as dead. To answer your question of population troubles> as of now, the rate of babies being born won’t double our population. So although we have hit the 7billion mark (or is it 8?), the world’s population will be slowly decreasing. There is currently no over population crisis (unless you speak of over population per area, places like india, china, etc.). Under population is a new issue we will face in the next century, but not drastic, the population will just stay on a steady rate of decrease, which is more than enough to cause concern. So in the future, the world can use as many people as it can get. There will always be people who would rather be dead than live forever. And although revival of humans will undoubtedly become as normal to future people as touchscreens are to us today, there are many moral issues. Such as reviving those who do not wish to be revived. It will never become common medical practice for the average person. Family members may request revivals for their loved ones, people currently sign onto the cryogenic freezing so that when they die, they will be frozen. I really see no issues in revival of humans or any other animals. but, you wont be seeing any 500 year dead corpses coming back, not with life memories of course.

    • lewis

      I know how you feel about this, and I understand why u would want this to stop.
      But this is something that I very much desire, I would love to go way way way into the future. The world wouldn’t be cramped because hopefully by then they would have been able to discover the right technology and the right energy source to be able to travel far distances in short amounts of time, to find more habitable planets like ours and to transport people to them. We can free up space.

    • Doctor Lock

      All very good points, but there are ways to solve each of these problems. Knowing that life is precious and can be indefinite people will be more determined to live life in a more perfect way having respect for their health and that of others. Things that cause harm to the body will be eliminated. No more pollution, cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs and no violence. No dangerous circumstances like cars or planes or even ladders as they exist today. Population will be controlled on this planet to less than a half a billion which has been thought of as the maximum sustainable for its resources and population density to overcome disease from underdeveloped nations which would then become developed by way of an ever growing knowledge and technological advance.

      Society itself would not think that it reached a utopia of perfection, that would just exist in a world where a higher conscience was found and it was normal for people to live in harmony with nature and each other on this planet less they find themselves expelled which after the first century it would be nearly impossible to find someone of that caliber because genetically they would be all but extinct. When the safety of all persons is felt on the earth, great advances will become realities. There will be nothing to fight about, only time to experience things that count. Cryogenics could be accomplished right now just as it was for rockets to carry astronauts into space, only the compatibility factor and survival of the traveler is at risk at this time. As far as the theory and science are concerned there are risks and side effects that are present. But I would gamble my life to prove it because I believe that not only does it out weigh the negative, but that if done properly to the right person it will instill the confidence that nearly everyone will want this done.

      • Cindy

        You claim that the population would be controlled, but if everyone has the possibility to live indefinitely, how do you choose who lives and who dies? Not everyone is willing to sacrifice their life for the betterment of humanity and you can’t force the ones that aren’t to do so. That is where I believe the argument of population control is flawed. Regardless of how you do it someone is still deciding who has the right to live and to die.

    • Bryan

      Here’s the thing, if you are old you will die. Your cells cant just stay the same the whole time. Even if so, they charge lots of money for this and if they make one mistake, you are gone forever. The world won’t overcrowd. The elderly with be unfrozen and will die. They most likely wont have family and cant pay for the cost to do it again.

    • Antonio

      You are right, there are moral issues as well. If you believe in a God, you would not want to freeze yourself to be revived if you believe you are going into another life. This is followed by questions like “what if you are revived but the spirit is no longer there”? For those that are atheists etc are things that are positive, like imagine if Einstein could have been revived and what he would contribute to science… or Bach to music etc… Civilization, art and technology could possibly have grown in ways too big to contemplate. Then again, maybe the idea could have been with us longer. It’s really open to interpretation in a million different ways.

      Finally, you might be revived to find out the world was destroyed by a super meteor many years ago, or world war 3 happened, or the sun has spent its fuel and engulfed the earth… Brrrr, I don’t want to think of that one.

      • Cassandra

        That’s a really good point. And if you believe in reincarnation your soul could be in another body by then since I doubt it would wanna stick around and wait. Especially when presented with a total new adventure and body and life and life mission. Perhaps you are dead because you experienced what you were supposed to and it was time to move on to the next experience. Perhaps we choose the life, and the people in it close to you. Anyways, having the spiritual part addressed is a good conversation and worth considering. I think that cryogenics are very interesting… and perhaps if we genetically modify humans with the cells in frogs and certain types of fish that allow them to freeze, then you can do the cryogenics successfully in a shorter period of time. That would be very scary and I hope that doesn’t happen though I bet in some countries GMO humans as well as cloning humans are being experimented with illegally.

        I wonder if keeping just the brain would be more realistic since it is less to unfreeze and the matter would me all fairly consistant. Then you have the moral issue of cloning someone and raising them till their brain is the same size and then killing them for a brain transplant. Interesting stuff I gotta say. If you are a couple that doesn’t have much to talk about, this would be a good conversation piece. Like that Month Python scene :)

    • Enygma ehng

      We have to remember the logistics of this type of procedure. The price of cryogenics is only going to increase, so if people could be brought back to life only those who could afford it would. By that time, it might cost millions in which case only a few percent of the population could be brought back to life.

    • Alex

      I think population growth would be the biggest concern. And besides, people still die of old age and just because you freeze gramps’ corpse afterwards doesn’t mean he will be any less old if they manage to thaw him back to life one day. They will have to battle the aging process first. This is probably more relating to premature and young deaths.

  2. waleed

    this will happen and there are a lot of chances for this to happen soon
    ,the chances for this to happen soon are very evident from the pace at which science is progressing.

  3. Chimaobi

    If human can be brought back to life. That means there will be no room for human habitation on earth since human only have 29percent space to live out of which 5 to 8 percent are deserted area. It is a good idea lets try make it work on or before 2045. Chimaobi

  4. Bob

    I believe there is a catapillar called the Wooly Bear, gets completely frozen in the arctic winter and gets thawed the next spring, for many years until its ready to form a cocoon.

    • themiddling

      You get frozen immediately after you’re declared legally dead, which is the point at which doctors stop working on you anyway. Legal death means your heart has stopped but your brain can be preserved, which would be necessary to retain personality and memory if cryogenics works.

  5. Kate

    Bad idea. Over-population will happen with this because of how easily accessible this will become. Linda like how iPads and mobile phones become cheaper over time. Before you know it, everyone will be wanting the extra 20 years or so of life and we will go into a depression but eventually come through. I do not want my descendants suffering from the likes of anothers selfish ways. Scientists should spend more time and money on the problems of today and not tomorrow.

    • Amber

      Over-population really won’t be a problem. Right now the rate of babies being born isn’t going to double our population or anything. I know that the population will be different in 2045, when cryonics might start working, but as of now over-population really isn’t a problem. Also I’m just curious, how will this cause us to go into a depression?

      • Cindy

        The constant rate of birth doesn’t double our population because there is a constant rate of death. If the latter were to stop, as all these medical procedures to prolong life intend to do, then there would be an overpopulation problem. That can lead to multiple problems concerning sustenance, because a population can only survive as long as life can be sustained. Maybe these procedures are meant to grant a few extra years of life, but I have no doubt that people are already looking beyond that to a way to live indefinitely. I also see no point in being frozen with no guarantee of coming back to life, since they still don’t know how to bring someone back after freezing them.

  6. Michele Blackford

    Even if one was able to be brought back to life, without the soul, which departed to their ultimate reward or punishment, would they be the same people they were in life? I’m not so sure. Does anyone have the answer to that? If so, I’d like to know.

    • Mitchell McDonald

      If you are a troll, congratulations you got a bite on your line.

      If not, as in you really are as mentally handicapped as you appear, I doubt anyone in the future would want to waste their time reviving a chr1stf4g from cryopreservation, so it is probably futile for you to look into this subject any further.

      You should be thanking me for stopping you from wasting anymore of your precious time on Earth thinking about things that are too complicated for your theistic mind to fathom.

      You’re welcome! :)

    • Erich

      Your soul doesn’t depart until your completely brain dead & you don’t gain a soul until your mind is fit to have one. You don’t realize you’ve received it but a lucky few do. I remember bits of my first day, first day of 1st grade I think, but I only remember bits and pieces.

    • JBK

      This could only be a matter of idle questioning speculation at best. Because of medical advancements people are surviving conditions that were fatal before. It follows that if one believes people have souls, they stay with the person surviving after each advance. Can we say the souls don’t go anywhere until it’s really time to do it? One way or another, this is ultimately a matter of personal choice and whatever is really in the big plan if it exists. We can’t prove what will happen in the future. I would stay away from anyone who claims to know what is definite otherwise.

  7. Maya

    Why can’t they just warm up the body to a safe temperature while putting the water back in? Wouldn’t it bring them back to life like we normally do with people in cardiac arrest and such?

  8. Erich

    Essentially the key thing to keep alive/healthy is your brain and spinal cord, seeing as though if you replace your brain your no longer you. Your spinal column/cord is what sends the messages to the body which tells it that the brain is fine, but some damage can be done to the cord as long as its not above the C-4 (guessing could be a lower one) section. Those are the vital organs & the rest is minor things from mobility to reflexes, they need to be cautious when thawing out the lungs, heart, kidney, and key organs for the immune system.

    Mind you, I’ve done quite a bit of thinking but very little training in any of it, seeing as though I’m only a senior in high school and thinking researching other subjects.

  9. John Harrington

    I know it’s sad to think, but nature cant support all these people already. People still have kids so nature needs to die to survive more generations.

  10. Kaylon

    Okay, if they are planning on bringing dead people back to life in the future, they have to create the skin, eyes, a heart, and all that stuff. What are they gonna do, just walk around with bones? Ava was right about what if people don’t want to be revived… then what will they do? They are going to just kill themselves again. When we die, they should just let us stay dead. We died for a reason. And if you get frozen, does it hurt? I don’t want to get frozen, but how does it feel? Weird, right? I actually never thought of this stuff until now.

    • Amber

      We won’t have to create skin, eyes, heart and the other stuff. The whole body will be frozen, unless someone only wishes to freeze their brain and have scientists create a clone. Also, if you would have read the article a little more carefully you would have noticed that people only get frozen if they want to, and if they pay for it. We aren’t just going to be freezing random people and reviving them. You also asked if it hurts to be frozen. I’m pretty sure that it won’t hurt, since you know, you’re dead when they freeze you.

  11. John Austin

    I question the ethics behind this project.
    First of all, only the very rich will be able to afford it, even if it is feasible. So the poor are left to shuffle off this mortal coil?
    Then consider the plight of someone who was miraculously revived into a future society. One assumes they will have no life companions from this era to share their new life with, and will probably be lost in a technologically advanced civilization beyond their comprehension. They would certainly suffer some kind of Rip van Winkle syndrome, and probably soon wish they had died naturally in the first place.
    One has to think beyond the technology to consider the sociological and psychological implications.

    • JBK

      I think you are misinformed. While there are well-off people signed up, most plan to pay for it with life insurance that is readily available as they so choose. If we’re making assumptions, it can be said that one can also face whatever in the future if friends and family also choose to take the same journey. Regardless of the implications, the law prevails and is accommodated when necessary. That being the case, I have no objections to anyone’s right to life and happiness. If the concept isn’t for you, I suggest respecting those who want to participate! :)

    • gredyck

      I agree on the ethics. Only the rich would get to take advantage of this gamble and there are perhaps millions to be made on this by greedy entrepreneurs for some questionable benefit. Don’t we have enough people on the planet? I am just trying to get my head around the expense and resources needed to put this in place that could otherwise go to helping the living. Are we setting up some modern system for immortality based on science not so different than the ancient Egyptians (and other cultures) and their mummies?

  12. Molly

    Have you thought of the life that you will lead when you are brought back? How will you cope with the vast change in times? You wouldn’t have any friends or family. People won’t see you as a person they would see you as a science project.

  13. Kahlum

    I think that, though Cryogenics would be a major scientific breakthrough, it would also be a very costly and precise procedure. I mean, have you ever thought about the possibility that even though you are frozen that you can only be frozen up to a certain amount of time before you are unable to be brought back to life?

  14. Rachel

    Seems like a big scam. I wonder who will care in the future to bring you back? And what would be the point of life in the future with a cure from whatever disease you have… if no one is around you to enjoy it. If you die at 30 but your family and friends aged normal and accepted death at a “normal” time, who would say, “oh look Mr Johns had Lou Gehrigs. There is a cure now. Lets defrost him.” When he is defrosted, how would he pay for the treatments? Did the cryogenics company set aside Mr Johns some funds that would increase in value so he could start from somewhere. If someone walked up to me and said “I am your great great grandfather. I was frozen 150 years ago.” I honestly wouldn’t care and would go on with my life! Again scam and pointless!

  15. Andrei

    I think there will be a way of bringing frozen humans back to life, we would then only need a reason..

    Population size concerns aside, future humanity might want to restore or use genetic content of earlier humans since prolonged dependencies on medicine over generations might weaken survivability for majority of people who won’t be able to live or reproduce without medical support. In addition, genetic modifications in future populations might require simpler or unmodified individuals that have evolved closer to natural selection. Mind you most of the folk currently frozen had some untreatable disease.

  16. ana

    What scientists should do instead of perfecting bringing people back to life is all get together to perfect a cure for cancer.

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