The youngest person to ever be cryopreserved occurred this year after two year old Matheryn Naovaratopong passed away due to a rare form of brain cancer known as ependymoblastoma. Her family hopes she may one day be revived and that the salvaged cancer and other cells may be useful in future research on the disease.
Matheryn was the latest patient of the more than 130 individuals that the cryonics firm Alcor has cryopreserved. The procedure was sought out by her family after Matheryn’s condition worsened following over ten surgeries and even more rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Normally a patient will be transported to an Alcor facility to prepare for the procedure, but in Matheryn’s case this was not possible, so Alcor sent two of its associates to the family in Thailand. Aaron Drake and Dr. Jose Kanshepolsky were surprised to learn that Matheryn’s skull had become mostly filled with cerebrospinal fluid since around 80% of her brain had been removed, making the preservation more difficult.
After a preliminary preservation and transport from Thailand to Alcor’s facilities in Arizona, Matheryn’s brain was extracted and preserved at -321 ⁰F in a bath of liquid nitrogen. Her remains wait alongside many others for the technology that may be able to cure her cancer and possibly regrow her body.
These types of technologies and others fall under the ideology of transhumanism, which Matheryn’s parents are both believers in, having pledged to also sign up for cryopreservation with Alcor. The main theme of the movement is the use of emerging technologies to alter the human condition and make people “more than human.”
The costs for cryonics services are high, but not such that only the super rich can afford them. Purchasing a membership with Alcor costs $770 per year, which places one on a standby list awaiting preservation procedures after death. For $80,000 one can purchase a “neuro,” which like in Matheryn’s case, only preserves the brain of an individual. For full body preservation, the cost comes to $200,000.
Wary of the fact that no individual has yet been revived successfully, Alcor has been unwilling to engage in heavy promotion of its services. However, social media has drawn increased attention to the possibility of eternal life through the means of preservation and then resuscitation.
As the Medical Response Director at Alcor, Drake admits that even if a method to reanimate a cryopreserved individual is discovered, in the instance of cases like Matheryn’s, there still remains the task of re-growing her entire body and transplanting her brain into that body. If the transhumanists are right, it is merely a matter of time.