Every synapse was readied. Loaded. Waiting for the muzzle twitch. The ear twist. The bounding leap forward. The toothed jaws chewing on clover. The fuzzy coat. The adorable suit. Those four lucky feet. They were rotting in a grave. Or incinerated – but gone. The rabbit. Where was it? In the jar? Or in the ground?
Our brains are the powerhouse of consciousness. But when we think of brains frozen, preserved without bodies, our minds turn to slush. We imagine tomatoes. Frozen and dripping. The ice crystals forming and thawing in a wake of mushy schmooze.
Walt Disney supposedly had, or wanted, his head cryogenically frozen for revival at a later date.
“The anti-Semitic brain of Walt Disney!” We imagine Michael Eisner crowing to an awed yet unnerved crowd. Unsure if this is all a joke in the happiest place on Earth. “He only ever wanted the best for those with money to spend and fantasies to love.” Eisner hands the terrifying mess to Bob Iger. A passing of the torch? A meeting of the minds?
But this is 2016, not 2005. And Eisner and Iger never met in such fashion. And Disney was never cryogenically frozen. Since that rumor about Walt began, sometime in the 1960s, scientists have only even preserved small tissue samples. Never a whole, intact brain. Cryogenic heads? It’s a fantasy. It’s all a myth! A fairy tale of science.
Except for those rabbit synapses, now perfectly preserved in a California lab, amber-yellow, shining. Aldehyde Stabilized Cryopreservation (ASC) was the scientific process. A technique combining chemical fixatives along with cryogenic cooling. Look it up if you are so inclined. It involves anti-freeze. Research company 21st Century Medicine (21CM) conducted the project.
A perfect and complete leporid brain lacking only one thing: a body. Perhaps, a soul. Are souls still part of life these days? When scientists warmed the rabbit brain to slice and view it after its long-term cryogenic storage, they managed to do so in a way which kept all internal connections fully intact. Though the bunny’s brain had been cryogenically cooled to -135 C (-211 F), the mush-inducing ice crystals never formed because the ethylene glycol – antifreeze – inhibited their development.
“Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain. Simply amazing given that I held in my hand this very same brain when it was vitrified glassy solid,” said president of the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF), Dr. Kenneth Hayworth.
BPF had the honor of announcing the successful experiment. They awarded 21CM nearly $27,000 for their scientific breakthrough.
I, myself, can’t help thinking of an ornament. A cool, glassy, gem-reflecting light. Remove a brain from a body and it’s hard to imagine the connection to what this thing is and what it does. Are brains nothing without a muscle to twitch, without synapses to fire and chemicals to flood innumerable channels?
Let’s cut to the future of this modern voyage, for our interest always lies in people, not in bunnies. The field of cryonics had but one major criticism – that the delicate brain circuitry could not be preserved. With this roadblock now gone, the BPF hails the preserved rabbit brain as a scientific first. A stepping stone to fully-preserved human brains to re-awaken and replace inside robots, or at least in viable bodies cured of cancer and the need for smokes and Twinkies, or whatever it is that our superpower human future holds.
First the discovery of gravitational waves, now perfectly preserved mammalian brains! Researchers at 21CM are now working towards a reversible brain freezing/preservation process. And what about the long-term future? Could we someday keep our brains in use, eschewing the need for bodies? We might be chaos, creativity and brilliance inside mason jars, preserved in a bunker someday, while our irradiated bodies turn to dust in the road.