Pulse 56: Brain Preservation Breakthrough for Next-Generation Cryonics

13 March 2018 (12 March 2018)
Giulio Prisco

Brain Preservation and Dispersion

The announcement from the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF) that the Large Mammal Brain Preservation Prize has been won (see below) is nothing short of awesome, if one takes the time to understand why.

The winning research team has demonstrated that a technique known as Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation (ASC) permits long term preservation of the full connectome -- the trillions of synaptic connections -- of a pig brain, comparable to a human brain in size, with very high quality equivalent to that used in state-of-the-art connectome research.

An ASC-preserved brain is expected to retain most of its molecular-level information. If so, future technology may permit scanning an ASC-preserved brain for brain emulation or mind uploading.

“A growing number of scientists and technologists believe that future technology may be capable of scanning a preserved brain’s connectome and using it as the basis for constructing a whole brain emulation, thereby uploading that person’s mind into a computer controlling a robotic, virtual, or synthetic body,” notes the BPF announcement. “The Brain Preservation Prize challenged the scientific community to develop a ‘bridge’ to that future mind uploading technology.”

In other words, an ASC-preserved brain could be held in cold storage for centuries, until future technology is available to scan the brain with sufficient resolution, decode the substrate of memories, thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and personality encoded in the brain, and bring a deceased person back to life in a new artificial body. That sounds like science fiction, but science fiction that could become science fact.

ASC can be seen as next-generation cryonics, but also as an alternative form of cryonics. In fact, ASC preservation is not meant for future biological revival of the original organic body, but for future cybernetic revival. Therefore, as BPF President Ken Hayworth explains in a video presentation, ASC is “cryonics for uploaders.”

“I believe it is the responsibility of the scientific and medical community to develop ASC into a reliable medical procedure as soon as possible,” said Hayworth. At the same time, he is persuaded that the right strategy is not to rush, and take the time and all necessary steps to develop ASC as a quality-controlled clinical procedure (before death) within the mainstream medical system.

The final Brain Preservation Prize has been won. The Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF) is announcing that the final phase of the Brain Preservation Prize, the Large Mammal Brain Preservation Prize, has been won by the cryobiology research company 21st Century Medicine (21CM) and lead researcher Robert McIntyre. The same researchers won the preliminary Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize two years ago. The procedure used, known as Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation (ASC) and described in a 2015 study published in Cryobiology, consists of perfusing the brain with glutaraldehyde and cryoprotectant prior to cryogenic storage. According to the BPF, the researchers have demonstrated a way to preserve a brain’s connectome for centuries-long storage.

Bioengineered genetic circuits for future personalized medicine and gene therapy. Scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have designed genetic 'circuits' out of living cellular material in order to gain a better understanding of how proteins function, with the goal of making improvements. A research paper published in Systems Biology and Applications describes how, by using principles of math and physics in synthetic biology, the researchers uncovered specific properties of microRNA that can be used in future applications for targeted and smart therapeutics. The research could open the way to develop genetic circuits for future personalized medicine and gene therapy.

CRISPR enhances cancer immunotherapy for T cell malignancies. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to engineer human T cells that can attack human T cell cancers without succumbing to “friendly fire” from each other. The research results on laboratory mice, described in a study published in Leukemia, could permit improving cancer immunotherapies for T cell malignancies, a class of devastating blood cancers with high rates of relapse and death.

Soft electronics captures brain signals. Scientists at Linköping University have developed new technology for long-term stable neural recording. The new method, described in a study published in Advanced Materials, is based on a novel elastic material composite, based on gold coated titanium dioxide nanowires embedded into silicone rubber, which is biocompatible and retains high electrical conductivity even when stretched to double its original length. Using soft microelectrodes, the researchers have collected high-quality neural signals from freely moving rats for 3 months. Future applications in human patients could include brain-machine interfaces, by which future technology and prostheses can be controlled with the aid of neural signals.

Precise gene editing technology can modify a single DNA base. Researchers at Kyoto University have developed a new gene editing method that can modify a single DNA base in the human genome with absolute precision. The new technique, described in a research paper published in Nature Communications, guides the cell’s own repair mechanisms. The scientists are confident that the research could generate gene editing technologies able to improve our understanding of disease mechanisms, and ultimately lead to therapies.

Super-resolution “4D microscopy” for neuroscience and biology. In what they describe as a breakthrough for biological imaging, EPFL scientists have developed a microscope platform that can perform super-resolution spatial and temporal imaging, capturing unprecedented views inside living cells. A research paper published in Nature Photonics describes a “4D microscope” platform dubbed PRISM, able to combine the sensitivity and high time-resolution of phase imaging with the specificity and high spatial-resolution of fluorescence microscopy. The researchers are persuaded that PRISM will be routinely used for high-resolution imaging in neuroscience and biology.

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