An author who passed away this year has become the first Chinese national to be cryogenically frozen and could be brought back to life after half a century.
Du Hong, a former writer of children’s literature from southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, passed away in the United States in May this year after losing a fight with pancreatic cancer – the same disease that claimed the life of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Before her death, the 61-year-old agreed to have her brain frozen by scientists, in the hope that technological advances will be able to revive her 50 years from now.
Zhang Siyao, Du Hong’s daughter, said her mother “joked” about the possibility of using cryogenics to freeze her body in the past, and “didn’t mind using her corpse for the purpose of developing emerging technologies.”
Zhang noted that her mother was inspired by a couple from Thailand who froze the brain of their daughter after she died of cerebrum.
With the help of classmates, Zhang found the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, one of the largest cryonics research institutes in the world, based in the state of Arizona in the western United States.
Immediately following Du’s death at 5 PM on May 30, cryosurgery on her body was conducted in Beijing, and her head was separated from her body and sent to Alcor in the U.S.
Reports said whole-body cryonics costs more than 2 million RMB (200,000 GBP), while freezing the head costs 750,000 RMB (75,425 GBP). For economic reasons, the family chose the latter.
Should future scientific methods allow it, the plan is to “replant” Du’s head onto a healthy body, essentially bringing her back to life.
According to Wei Jingliang, a genetic engineering PhD with the China Academy of Agricultural Science who volunteered during one of the operations, in cryosurgery, doctors keep the dead bodies in a state of “medical stability”.
He elaborated: “In terms of biology, people do not die immediately [after legal death]. A series of measures will be taken to preserve the body in a low-temperature condition.”
Wei said the body will be defrosted “when the time is right.”
According to Alcor’s website, it is a nonprofit organisation that researchers, advocates for and performs cronics – the preservation of humans in liquid nitrogen after legal death.
Alcor hopes to restore them to full health with the help of new technologies in the future.