COVID-19 spurs interest in cryonisation: one Tatarstan citizen among those who froze the body

How a company in St. Petersburg freezes the bodies of the deceased for the sake of “resurrection” in the indefinite future

As Realnoe Vremya found out, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia, the number of fans of cryonisation — freezing bodies after death for the sake of resurrection in the indefinite future when it becomes possible — has sharply increased. Oddly enough, in our country, this service exists, and quite legally. The only domestic company that offers cryonisation services for the body, brain or DNA, told our publication about an increase in the number of requests — “people started thinking about that they are actually mortal”. Several hundred of the deceased have been frozen so far, but the number of interested people around the world is estimated in the thousands. According to Cryorus company, one resident of Tatarstan, whose body was frozen after death, has already decided to experiment, and several other residents of the republic have signed contracts for cryonisation.

Escaping from coronavirus — freezing for happier days

Only five companies in the world provide cryonisation services for the body after death, and one of them is in Russia, in St. Petersburg.

With the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people wishing to be frozen after death in the hope that in the near future there will be technologies for successful defrosting of the body and actual resurrection (including by cloning frozen DNA), has increased markedly. This was told to Realnoe Vremya by the head and co-founder of Cryorus PLC, which provides such services, Valeria Udalova, who is also a theorist of transhumanism, sociologist and futurologist.

“Let's just say, it's not a boom, but many people started thinking about that they are actually mortal, there have become more applications to us. Mostly people come to us who are not sick yet [COVID-19], and we hope that they will not! There have become more applications themselves, what is more — from all over the world. Customers, of course, sign contracts, but only a handful are frozen — fortunately, those who contact us do not die very often. There are patients that we have already frozen — there are, as always, a few of them. Customers who sign contracts for future freezing — there are more of them. Not ten times more, but noticeably," Udalova noted.

Number of frozen “patients” is about 400

Cryopreservation companies are ready to freeze not only the body but also the brain, DNA samples of the deceased, they freeze even animals. But the number of their “patients”, when the “pioneer” in this unusual field — Alcor company in Arizona, hasn't exceeded half a thousand since 1972.

Alcor, for example, has frozen about 200 people, Russian Cryorus has no more than 100 of “patients” (as they call the deceased clients who have concluded contracts for freezing, or their deceased relatives). In total, more than 250 people has been frozen in the United States by 2020, and another 1,500 paid for the procedure of future cryopreservation of their bodies (among them, for example, Paris Hilton). According to cryonicists, there are about 400 people worldwide in total.

In 2018, the number of “patients” in Russia was limited to 62, most of them frozen at a temperature of minus 196 degrees Celsius in the cryopreservation facility in Sergiev Posad. By the beginning of 2020, Cryorus had had already about 80 “patients”.

“Our activity cannot be called a business”

The activities of Cryorus PLC can hardly be called a business itself — initially the company was founded in 2005 by a group of transhumanist activists, and the first customers were the representatives of the company themselves or their relatives (one of them froze his mother after her death).

The bodies of the deceased immediately after death are treated with the so-called “perfusion” — the process of replacing the blood in the body with a non-freezing composition “cryoprotector”, which, according to transhumanists, “prevents cell damage during freezing” (scientists do not agree with this, see below). “The substance is administered to a person immediately after death is recorded, only after that, the body is frozen to the temperature of liquid nitrogen and placed for storage in cryogenic storage dewars," the company explains.

Freezing and storing bodies costs, of course, a pretty penny. According to the latest open financial data, the project is not profitable. In 2017, the net profit of Cryorus PLC exceeded 9 million rubles, but in 2018, it fell to 200,000 rubles, revenue decreased for the year from 12 million to 1,16 million rubles.

“Of course, our activity cannot be called a business," admits Valeria Udalova. “We don't want to be a business ourselves! The thing is that there are different stages of development of any technology. Let's take space, for example, when did it become a business? It's just becoming before our eyes. Today, first of all, we are “saving people”. Second, at the point of self-sufficiency, we are trying to develop this industry. Perhaps, in the future, it will become a business, which, of course, needs to be regulated somehow so as not to be abused. But so far, despite that our company Cryorus is a PLC, we do not regard it as a place where we get some profit, wealth. We invest all the profits back into the business.

Less than 3 million rubles for freezing the body, more than a million — for the brain

It is curious that legally Cryorus PLC It provides services not only in the field of medicine, health care and hospital organisations, but also insurance, as well as “funeral arrangements”. According to Udalova, the idea of insurance has come to the founders of the company quite recently — the know-how is that most of the young people who are “worried about their future”, pay the necessary amount every month until they lose their ability to work. Interestingly, the company promises to cryonize them after death, even if the customers have not fully paid the “insurance”.

“It turns out that someone can overpay more, and someone even underpay for cryonics services — but we still cryonize them. This service is just aimed at young poor customers," explains the director of Cryorus. “In general, the representatives of the middle, middle-rich class predominate among our clients. There is also a very small percentage of very rich people.

The prices, given the very promised possibility of “resurrection” by scientific means — are high, to put it mildly. For brain freezing (this service appeared because, transhumanists explain, there are often relatives who insist on burying the body — which is mandatory in both Christianity and Islam) will require from 1,15 to 1,3 million rubles, depending on the package of services. Freezing the body will cost 2,4-2,6 million rubles. The cheapest is the preservation of DNA for at least 25 years plus “indefinite storage in digital” form — only 65,000 rubles.

Professor of Genetics: it may be a copy without memory when recreating a person from DNA

“As for DNA, it is possible to recreate a copy of a person as a whole [in the future], but it will be a copy devoid of the identity of the carrier, memory. If you do not believe in some “information fields”, but it will already be a faith at the level of religion," says Albert Rizvanov, Professor at the Department of Genetics of the Kazan Federal University, who is skeptical about the possibility of unfreezing and returning to life after death. “And the same applies to the brain, some kind of 'memory card' that will be possible to restore later. Even the body, even the head, even the brain — just if there is no money to freeze the whole body, they decide to freeze only the brain. But what's the point? The chances of a successful defrosting and “resurrection” will not increase! You're just saving money now.

Cryonists associate the possibility of 'resurrection' of the brain with the 'life span' of its cells: allegedly, according to a number of studies, 'after the biological death of an organism, neurons can live up to ten or more hours, and, accordingly, timely freezing of the brain will preserve its neural 'topology' (the same 'memory card').

There are “believers” in this and in the fact that scientific progress will reach the point where the ideas of transhumanists will be realised not only in America or Russia. Among the clients of Cryorus, there are also “patients” from Western Europe, Japan, India, Australia, who are deprived of such unusual services at home. This is explained by the complexity of registering companies for the cryonization of bodies — after all, they can also be accused of quackery.

Cryonicists to a good defrosting less than a century

Although the concept of human cryonics was first proposed by American physicist and mathematician Robert Ettinger in the early 1960s (he also created the Cryonics Institute in the United States in the 1970s), official science is still mostly skeptical about “immortality”. As a result, although the cryonics communities are not persecuted by the state (in strict China, for example, there is also a company for freezing people), they exist in positions of rather weak ones.

At the same time, the Russian centre for the freezing of the deceased is popular in the world because of its affordable prices: if in America the preservation of the body or brain costs an average of 80-200 thousand dollars, in Russia — prices do not exceed 40 thousand dollars. The contracts themselves are arranged in such a way that at the end of a specific period they can be automatically extended, at least up to 300 years in the future. At Cryorus, however, they are sure that the event horizon will be much shorter.

“I would give from 30 to 60 years, the time horizon when, in my opinion, science will have a chance to unfreeze/restore the life of cryonized people. On the one hand, it seems that a lot of time still needs to pass before this moment, on the other hand, we see how progress is accelerating before our eyes. If, of course, there are no wars, a rollback, in 30-60 years we will be able to unfreeze and revive our 'patients'," Valeria Udalova is sure.

The chance to successfully unfreeze is one in a billion, one Tatarstan citizen has already decided to do it

From the point of view of modern science, this statement is too optimistic. Professor of Genetics Albert Rizvanov, for example, compared the probability of being successfully thawed, resurrected or restored by cloning DNA with a lottery:

“At the moment, the probability of this is extremely small. But you can't take money with you to the next world, so if you have enough money, then you can go for it. We can compare this to a lottery ticket: the probability of your winning [unfreezing and 'resurrection'] will be one in a billion!”

There are those who want to “buy” such lottery ticket, as it turned out, also in Tatarstan. One of our compatriots has already become not just a “client”, but a “patient” of Cryorus and was frozen incognito: his first and last name, for obvious reasons, is not called in the company.

Several more Tatarstan citizens have signed contracts with the cryocompany for the future cryopreservation of their bodies after death — their names are also not disclosed for similar reasons.

According to Udalova, among the clients, there are both wealthy people who find it difficult to accept the idea that they, like everyone else, are destined to die and disappear, and people of a rational mind who sincerely believe in scientific progress. However, most of the clients take this step out of love for their relatives, they sign contracts for freezing, believing that in the near future they will be able to return again alive and well.

A scientific experiment for those who do not want to part with their loved ones after their death

“This is the largest part of our clients — they are not afraid of their death, not that they believe in progress, it is just hard to believe in the death of relatives, and they conclude contracts for them. Now the number of such people with such love for their loved ones is just off the scale. I think this is the most vivid manifestation of love: when you have not just done everything you could but have done even more than that. They do not even think about their future, but out of love they cryonize, for example, their mother, they want to give her a chance," the founder of Cryorus says with sympathy.

From the point of view of not science but of legislation, the company is well protected. Valeria Udalova explains the paradox of concluding a contract for the services of “resurrection”, which is currently impossible — “this is a scientific experiment”. She noted that the company also has a research structure.

Indeed, the structure of Cryonic Group of Companies also includes Tandem Independent Scientific and Technical Expertise PLC and Institute of Aging Biology PLC. In fact, they sign a contract with their clients “for research activities”. According to it, with the modern methods that are currently available, the company's representatives freeze the bodies of customers, store them, and then “try to defrost them”. Udalova admitted that she personally believes in the success of cryonics.

There is no technology that freezes bodies without permanent damage today

But Albert Rizvanov, Professor of Genetics at the KFU, does not believe it. Moreover, he believes that even at the stage of freezing bodies, the chances of successful defrosting in the future actually evaporate:

“At the moment, cryonics is more of a religion, because here we are also dealing with faith, only with faith in a bright future, in that science can overcome this threshold... not so much death, but the inability to preserve the body today," explains the scientist. “After all, if we talk about storing the body in a frozen state, then, unfortunately, modern technologies of such freezing lead to irreversible damage [to the body, cells]. Perhaps, in the future, there will be technologies that will allow us to store it without damaging it. But today such technologies simply do not exist…"

By Sergey Afanasyev