Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Progress, or Empty Promises?

Thanks to a recent post by Mark Plus, on the Cold Filter forum, I recently read a two-part article posted on Cryonet, by Saul Kent, in April 1998, titled "The Failure of the Cryonics Movement - Part I" and "The Failure of the Cryonics Movement - Part II". The primary topic of the article was the failure of cryonics to attract new followers, in other words, it was a report of a marketing failure. In it, Mr. Kent wrote:

"The result has been the failure to confront and effectively deal with the fact that our failure to sell cryonics has been due, almost entirely, to the poor quality of our product. Outsiders don't have to think twice to come to that conclusion. It's self evident to almost everyone....except to cryonicists!"

Does Saul Kent not see that is still the situation, especially within his own LEF-funded organizations? Let's go back to some excerpts from the February 2000 issue of Life Extension Magazine (note the year "2000"):

"The most recent breakthrough made at The Critical Care Research Project is an Automated Liquid Ventilation System that can lower whole-body temperature extremely rapidly with a (sic) an automated system that introduces cooled liquid perflurocarbon into the lungs without causing lasting injury. What remains is to make the system portable, so that it can fit into an ambulance for use at the scene of automobile accidents, heart attacks and strokes."

All that remained in February 2000 was "to make the system portable" and nearly eight years later, Critical Care Research has not accomplished that? There are papers on liquid ventilation, dating back to the 1920's, and experiments were carried out during World War I; it is not a "new" concept and it was not discovered by anyone in cryonics, though LEF-funded organizations appear to have been taking credit for it, for quite some time, now. More from the LEF magazine article:

"A paper on the Automated Liquid Ventilation System is about to be submitted to a major medical journal for publication. The kind of rapidly-induced hypothermia that's possible with this liquid ventilation system could save the lives of large numbers of people who suffer heart attacks, strokes and severe closed head injuries. The system could also be used in-hospital to give doctors extra time to perform heavy-duty surgical procedures. We expect that this system will eventually make "Headline News" as a one of the early major medical breakthroughs of the 21st century."

This technology has been making the news, but not as a result of anything being done in cryonics. Again, it seems as though LEF was attempting to make it appear that liquid ventilation was a discovery someone in cryonics made, when it certainly was not. Why has LEF continued to fund Critical Care Research for a project in which they have made little-to-no progress over the course of at least seven years? How many times is Steve Harris going to stand up in front of an audience and state that liquid ventilation is an effective method of rapid cooling, when that has been known for decades? The challenge in this project remains what Life Extension Magazine stated it was, nearly eight years ago; to make the device portable.

At this point, I am finding it difficult to believe LEF-funded organizations CCR and SA aren't consciously attempting to make cryonicists believe liquid ventilation IS something new. For example, here's a blog entry from someone who was in attendance at the Alcor Conference, for Steve Harris' presentation:

"Next up was Steve Harris, M.D., of Critical Care Medicine, discussing liquid ventilation, the new method ensuring the fastest cooling of patients. The heart-lung machine is faster, but it requires more time to set up, thus making it practically slower. Liquid ventilation can cool 5 degrees in 5 minutes in dog experiments, once the airway ventilation is set up."

(Note the attendee called liquid ventilation "the new method." I think that is because CCR/SA/LEF tries to leave that impression on their audience.)

Now, excerpts from Charles Platt's review of the 2007 Alcor Conference:

"Steve Harris MD - Following the panel, Steve described the procedure generally known as liquid ventilation which entails infusing the lungs with a chilled breathable liquid while blood is circulated either by natural heartbeats or, in the case of a cryonics case, by cardiopulmonary support. Liquid ventilation enables exceptionally rapid cooling. Only extracorporeal bypass is faster, but it must be preceded by surgery in an appropriate environment. Liquid ventilation can be performed spontaneously in almost any location..."

Since when can it be "performed spontaneously in almost any location"? Can the LEF-funded organizations perform this procedure "spontaneously" at ANY location other than CCR's lab? Last I heard, the SA system was still not portable. The images of the system on their website show how massive it is, and that aluminum frame assembly would most likely be a nightmare in a field situation. I believe Harris has stated he will be using SA's system in his operating room, at CCR, for dog experiments. For what purpose? So he can tell us, yet again, that it's an effective method of rapid cooling?

In my opinion, Harris and Platt did not need to test Platt's device on an animal, so they could establish the rate of cooling and report it at the Alcor conference. Platt's device is much too large for field use, so the rate of cooling is irrelevant. Didn't Mike Darwin prove that LV was an effective method of rapid cooling, to the cryonics community, nearly 22 years ago? And, didn't other people prove this, in conventional medical research, long before that? It's a "no-brainer" that cold lung lavage would achieve a greater cooling rate than simply packing a patient in ice, (provided adequate blood circulation was provided). Until someone delivers this technology to the field, who cares about the actual rate, when we can intuitively know it is much greater than packing the patient in ice? Make it portable and get it out there, THEN worry about improving the rate, if necessary. How many dogs must be subjected to surgery to tell us what we already know...that lung lavage is an effective way to cool? (Where are the animal rights activists when you need them?!)

"...and should require relatively little training of personnel....

LEF-funded organizations CCR and SA seem to think that about ALL medical procedures, as evidenced by the two fabricators and the golf pro they sent to perform whole body perfusion at their only case in three years. CCR uses a qualified, experienced perfusionist for their dog experiments. I wonder if they are required to do so by the people who control animal experiments. If so, why do Saul Kent and Bill Faloon not require the same for their human patients?

"...The procedure has advanced to the point where it may be deployable by Suspended Animation in human cryonics cases during 2008. Animal trials have yielded consistent results exceeding a cooling rate of 1 degree Celsius per minute, in dogs that fully recovered afterward. Higher rates may be feasible if we are willing to inflict some lung damage, which would be acceptable to neuro patients and might also be tolerated by some whole-body cryonics patients."

It "may" be deployable in 2008, or it may not. If it is, what has been the hold up for the past eight years? They didn't have me here, shouting that they weren't accomplishing anything? Who cares about the rate of cooling if you still are not able to deploy the system to the field, which is where cryonicists need it most? As for the lung damage, I doubt it is as serious as the damage that can be inflicted by unqualified persons performing whole body perfusion.

Here's another interesting excerpt, from Life Extension Society News October 1996:
"...and the newly developed technique of liquid ventilation.Technical training was hands-on using animal models."

"Newly developed"??? How can cryonics organizations get away with calling liquid ventilation "new"? I really want to know. And, how can the people funding these projects be so blind? Or are they? Maybe they're not being fooled, maybe they are simply allowing a project that has made little-to-no progress over more than two decades be used as a tactic for marketing cryonics to newcomers who may not be aware of the past, or may not do as much research as they should. Do Kent and Faloon not see this as one of the reasons they have failed, miserably, in marketing cryonics? Any intelligent person is not going to listen to empty promises of a "new" technology for more than a couple of years, without seeing any actual progress. After that, you have to find a new audience.

Mr. Kent also wrote, in his article, there is a lack of evidence that "we can effectively preserve ourselves," but I don't believe that is true. The evidence exists in conventional medicine, where patients are frequently cooled to legal death for periods of up to, (and occasionally even more than), an hour, and are then awakened, memory and personality intact. If it can be performed for a short period of time, it seems reasonable to assume it can work for a longer duration of time, given the proper medications/solutions, and cooling and storage parameters. More importantly, the medical procedures, (such as whole body perfusion), need to be performed by personnel who have been properly trained to perform them in a manner such as to avoid causing harm to the patient. You can't provide a metal fabricator and a golf pro with a weekend training session in perfusion and a couple of videos, and expect them to safely perform this procedure.

Many medical professionals consider the perfusionist to be the person who has the greatest potential for causing harm to the patient, in heart surgery. I'm told accidents or poor technique, (such as improper pressurization, inadequate flows, and massive air emboli), occur in cryonics on a regular basis, while these events were all but eliminated in open-heart surgery decades ago. This, no doubt, is a result of cryonics organizations using unqualified personnel. Perfusionists have either four- or six-year degrees and are required to perform at least 100 cases on a human patient before they can even sit for the board exams, yet Saul Kent thinks he can make do with a golf pro, or a fabricator, who has had a couple of days of training and a few video refresher courses. Everyone even considering SA's services should find this extremely insulting to their intelligence, especially when Mr. Kent is willing to pay these unqualified people as much as experienced, qualified perfusionists.

In the Saul Kent article mentioned above, he states, "Rich people, even rich cryonicists, aren't fools." I wouldn't be so sure of that. Am I the only person to think LEF/Kent/Faloon must be incredibly gullible? I believe they must be, or else they think the rest of the cryonics community is. These two presumably intelligent, successful men are spending millions of dollars a year to accomplish what? To have Steve Harris report that lung lavage is an effective means of rapid cooling, something he and Mike Darwin reported to the cryonics community more than 21 years ago? To send a golf pro and two metal fabricators to do their medical procedures? I really wish someone would explain to me what these two individuals actually think is being accomplished.

If I were funding a liquid ventilation project, and I believed it to be complete in every regard except portability, I would damn sure expect more than someone I was paying to stand up and say the same thing they said eight years ago, (or worse than that, the same thing they said nearly 22 years ago), which is essentially, "We have this great new rapid cooling device, all we need to do is make it portable." In fact, I believe I would want to know why the portability issue wasn't resolved, after only a year or two. I guess I'm more demanding than Bill and Saul, I expect progress, not empty promises.


Phil said...

Wow-- nicely parsed. You've zeroed in on a significant angle-- with historical context to boot. Great work, again.

r said...

You really don't like Harris do you?

I get the impression there's more than meets the eye here.

Bring it.

Melody said...

I'm not sure what "r" wants me to "bring," more than seven months after the original post. I don't know Harris well enough to like, or dislike, him. However, not long before my post, he printed several blatant lies about me, on the Cold Filter forum. I don't really blame him, as I'm pretty sure I know where his misinformation came from. Harris probably trusted that person, just as I once did. That individual subsequently hired an attorney, and posted a corrective statement.

The topic of the lack of progress in Harris/CCR's liquid ventilation was suggested, to me, by a third party. I did the research and, upon finding the February 2000 LEF article, wondered why more progress had not been made. That's all.

I don't think the post was as much about Harris, as it was about Saul Kent's/LEF's seemingly low expectations. In spite of Mr. Kent recognizing "the poor quality of our product," more than a decade ago, and generously funding cryonics efforts for quite some time, now, very little progress seems to have been made.