Inside the labs that hope to bring people back from the dead

CryonicsMurray BallardAaron Drake, Medical Response Director, prepares stabilisation medications to be used during the initial stages of a cryopreservation.

Science has been tackling new ways to stop death, which includes diving into the world of cryonics.

Cryonics is an experimental effort to save lives by freezing a person’s body who is so chronically ill that today’s medicine could not help. Some scientists believe that cryopreservation could be successful in the future, while others are very doubtful, according to BBC.

Photographer Murray Ballard has spent years photographing cryonics institutions around the UK and the United States. “What I like about cryonics is that it gives us a vehicle to consider questions about the future,” Ballard tells Business Insider. “You stand a much better chance of coming back to life if you’re cryopreserved than if you’re buried or cremated.” Ballard compiled his photos into a book titled “The Prospect of Immortality.” Below, see photos inside the cryonics institutions.

For his series, Ballard visited cryonics institutions in the UK, France, Norway, Arizona, Colorado, and Russia. He visited Alcor Life Extension Foundation, pictured below, in Scottsdale, Arizona the most.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation (front view), Scottsdale, Arizona. December 2012

Planning to participate in cryonics must take place before death. As of April 2016, the Alcor institute has 146 patients.

Frank, prospective patient, standby team training, Peacehaven, East Sussex. May 2007


The freezing and preserving process starts immediately after a patient's 'legal death' is announced. A person can decide whether to freeze their entire body or just their brain. 'Legal death' is when a person is beyond help and dies naturally and can no longer be revitalized by current technology.

Patient Care Bay (Bigfoot dewar being filled with liquid nitrogen), Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. October 2006


While visiting the institutions, Ballard interviewed cryonicists. 'The majority of cryonicists accept that it's an experiment and, while the chances of it working are very small, they argue it's the logical thing to do,' Ballard said.

Aaron Drake, Medical Response Director, prepares stabilisation medications to be used during the initial stages of a cryopreservation. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009

The process of cryonics has four major steps -- transport, stabilisation, cryoprotective perfusion, and cooling.

Catstat, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. March 2007


Once the person is pronounced dead, they are immediately transported to the closest cryonics institution. Patients are encouraged to move near an institute before death, for a supposedly higher chance of success with the process. During stabilisation they are put in an ice water bath and blood circulation and breathing are artificially restored by a heart-lung resuscitator.

DNA archive, home of David and Ellen Styles, Macclesfield, Cheshire. February 2009

Once they are successfully transported and go through the stabilisation process, they go through the process of cryoprotective perfusion, a process where blood and/or organs are replaced with a vitrification solution to prevent or reduce ice crystallization in the body during cool down.

Cryostats, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. April 2010

Last, they are cooled under computer control by fans circulating nitrogen gas. They are first cooled to negative 257 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours, then gradually cooled to negative 374 degrees Fahrenheit for long term care.

Temporary storage container, KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010

The first person to participate is preserving their body with cryonics was in 1965. No patients involved are yet to be revived.

Margaret Kiseleva, holding a photograph of her mother, Ludmila, moments before her cryopreservation, KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010


'There's an incredible optimism in signing up to cryonics, which I admire,' Ballard tells Business Insider. 'I also think it's quite a brave thing to do, putting your body in the hands of future generations, and, if it works, you'll probably 'wake up' in a very unfamiliar world.'

Patient storage demonstration, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009

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