Chemical brain preservation

Chemical brain preservation

Chemical Brain Preservation is the process of preparing the brain, or entire central nervous system for long term, high quality storage. Unlike cryopreservation, chemical techniques do not require freezing and storage at extremely low temperatures. There is currently research into the development of a surgical protocol that can reliably and demonstrably preserve a human brain’s precise neural circuitry for long-term (>100 years) storage. If such a procedure were available it would give interested persons a means of avoiding death and reaching the distant future.



Such a procedure would most likely involve either vascular perfusion of a person with cryoprotective agents and long-term storage at close to liquid nitrogen temperature, or vascular perfusion of a person with chemical fixative agents followed by a plasticizing agent and room temperature storage. Both techniques have already been successfully demonstrated on small pieces of brain, but advances in the chemical formulations, perfusion apparatus, and surgical technique are necessary to preserve all of the neural circuits in a human brain in a way which can be verified.

Given the already advanced state of the existing techniques, it is likely that preservation of a whole brain could be demonstrated within a 5 year time frame if appropriate intellectual and monetary resources were devoted to the problem; unfortunately, a general lack of understanding of the potential for human brain preservation has severely curtailed such research. A Brain Preservation Technology Prize has been offered by the Brain Preservation Foundation for meeting certain goals. As of June 12, 2010 the prize is valued at $100,000[1]


The idea of putting a person in 'suspended animation' so they can reach future medical technology has been a staple of science fiction for decades. It has also been practiced, in an ad hoc way, by an eclectic group called cryonicists. The purpose of a Brain Preservation Technology Prize is to have an independent panel of scientists and medical doctors define a clear set of milestones which, if achieved, would warrant that such a preservation procedure be seriously considered as a viable medical alternative to death.

Background information

In 1962 Robert Ettinger put forward the radical idea that a person's brain and body might be preserved using the best available techniques so that the person could reach future medical technology of sufficient advancement to restore health. This idea, because it is in principle scientifically sound, initially attracted much interest from both scientists and laypersons and gave rise to the practice of low-temperature (cryonic) preservation. However, even the best cryonic techniques of the 1960s produced horrific damage to brain tissue as seen by light and electron microscopic examination. All reasonable scientists looking at this massive amount of damage to the neural connectivity of the brain rightly concluded that cryonic suspension using the existing techniques was hopeless. People selling cryopreservation to individuals were labeled as naive, or worse, quacks and charlatans, and the vast majority of scientists, especially cryobiologists, quickly distanced themselves from the entire enterprise.

See also


  1. ^ "Prize purse as of June 12, 2010: $100,000 US". TECHNOLOGY PRIZE. The Brain Preservation Foundation. June 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
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  • Kurzweil, R. (2006). The Singularity is Near. Penguin press
  • Lemler, J., Harris, S. B., Platt, C., & Huffman, T. M. (2004). The arrest of biological time as a bridge to engineered negligible senescence. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1019, 559-563.
  • Markram, H. (2006). The blue brain project. Nat Rev Neurosci 7(2): 153-60.
  • Oldmixon, E.H., Suzuki, S., Butler, J.P., & Hoppin, F.G., Jr. (1985). Perfusion dehydration fixes elastin and preserves lung air-space dimensions. J Appl Physiol, 58 (1), 105-113.
  • Palay, S. L., McGee-Russell, S. M., Gordon, S., Grillo, M. A. (1962). Fixation of neural tissues for electron microscopy by perfusion with solutions of osmium tetroxide. J Cell Biol, 12, 385-410.
  • Pichugin, Y., G. M. Fahy, et al. (2006). Cryopreservation of rat hippocampal slices by vitrification. Cryobiology 52(2): 228-40.
  • Sandberg, A., and Bostrom, N. (2008). Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap. Technical Report #2008-3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University.
  • Sullivan, B. J., L. N. Sekhar, et al. (1999). "Profound hypothermia and circulatory arrest with skull base approaches for treatment of complex posterior circulation aneurysms." Acta Neurochir (Wien) 141(1): 1-11

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