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China’s new brain freeze tech could allow humans to explore space | Science | News

Scientists in China have made a massive breakthrough in the field of brain freezing, a technology that could potentially allow humans to explore deep space – or to be cryopreserved until cures are found for fatal diseases and conditions.

They have developed a new technique for freezing human brain tissue so that it regains normal function after thawing.

In their latest experiment, they used human embryonic stem cells to cultivate brain samples for three weeks.

This duration was sufficient for neurons and neural cells to become functional

These samples were then immersed in various chemical concoctions, including sugar, antifreeze, and chemical solvents.

After being cryogenically frozen in liquid nitrogen for 24 hours, the researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University gradually thawed the samples over a fortnight.

They discovered that one of the mixtures preserved the neurons intact and capable of transmitting signals as usual.

This represents a significant advancement in the competitive and evolving field of cryogenics, which has previously grappled with the problem of water crystals forming in brain tissue during the freezing process.

The hope is that cryogenics will eventually fulfil the expectations set by science fiction films, enabling living humans to be frozen indefinitely. This would mean they could potentially be reanimated many years later.

Several celebrities, including American DJ Steve Aoki, Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane, and Paypal founder Peter Thiel, have all previously expressed their intention to have their bodies frozen upon death, in the hope that future scientists will be able to revive them.

In a groundbreaking case, two-year-old Matheryn Naovaratpong from Thailand became the youngest individual to be cryogenically preserved in 2015 after succumbing to a rare form of brain cancer. Her parents, holding onto hope for future medical miracles, chose to freeze her head and brain, envisioning a time when she might live again in a new body.

Meanwhile, Rhea Ettinger holds the record as the longest-preserved patient at the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, US, having been there since 1977.

Chinese scientists have recently made a significant breakthrough, discovering a unique mixture that allows them to freeze brain tissue without causing any damage. This concoction, known as MEDY, is composed of four chemicals: methylcellulose, ethylene glycol, DMSO, and Y27632.

The study’s lead, Professor Zhicheng Shao, an alumnus of Harvard and a neuroscientist at Fudan University, detailed the findings in the journal Cell Reports Methods, stating: « MEDY could be used for the cryopreservation of human brain tissue. »

Joao Pedro Magalhaes, a researcher at the University of Birmingham, has expressed optimism about the potential for cryonics to make significant strides with continued research. Speaking to New Scientist, he envisioned a future where cryopreservation could serve terminal patients or even astronauts on missions to distant star systems.

Magalhaes said: « We know brain cells are very fragile and sensitive to stress. Thinking decades or centuries ahead, we can imagine patients being cryopreserved when they have a terminal condition or astronauts being cryopreserved in order to travel to other star systems. »

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