A startup so cool it could wake the dead

A new cryonics startup wants to make death a thing of the past.

A child science prodigy building long-term hibernation pods to freeze bodies and thaw them hundreds of years later sounds like a sci-fi movie we’ve already watched.

Three ice cubes with a brain, heart, and kidney frozen inside and a cloud of dry ice.

But, it turns out, it’s becoming very real. Cradle Healthcare Co., founded by Laura Deming — who got her start in lab research at age 12 — and Hunter Davis, is looking to finally crack cryonics, per Bloomberg.

Cradle says it’s creating a “pause button for biology” with a focus on three medical use cases:

  • Neuroscientists often use rodent brain tissue samples for research since human samples can be difficult to find. Cryopreserving slices of human brain tissue would allow researchers to order a sample at any time.
  • Organ donation is a highly time-sensitive process that makes testing and matching organs and donors difficult. Freezing donated organs would remove time constraints.
  • Many patients die from diseases that don’t yet have cures. Cryonics could preserve a patient’s body and unthaw it once a cure to their disease was discovered to treat them.

The startup, after running quietly for the last three years, emerges from stealth mode today having already raised $48m in funding.

Cool stuff

As Deming points out, cryopreserving living tissue is a technology that already exists, used for in vitro fertilization and in a recent University of Minnesota study that cryopreserved rat kidneys.

Cradle is looking to make the tricky jump into applying that science to bigger, human organs and, ultimately, whole bodies.

For now, it’s focusing on rodent brain slices, and has successfully cooled and rewarmed a sample while retaining the neurons’ electrical activity.

Of course, there are obstacles: Ice crystals from freezing can ruin cells and cryoprotectants that protect from crystallization are toxic.

And Cradle isn’t the first company to attempt to advance cryonics: Alcor Life Extension Foundation famously has 200+ bodies and heads — and some pets — frozen in its headquarters.

The only problem? No one has been revived… yet.

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