Alcor News Bulletin
                 Number 14: August 1st, 2003

          Alcor Upgrades its Regional Capabilities

July was a pleasantly quiet month at Alcor. None of our
members required help, and we're happy to report that no one
contacted us with news of any potentially serious medical

Mathew Sullivan, Director of Suspension Readiness, used the
welcome break in our case load as an opportunity to complete
his assembly of ten new meds kits, plus additional support
kits which are now required because our meds kits have grown
in content and complexity. Two meds kits and two support kits
have already been sent to our team in Southern California.
Meds/support packages are also destined for northern
California, Florida, Boston, Canada, and the UK.

The purpose of deploying these kits is to enable "first aid"
for cryopatients in an emergency, ideally with the help of
local volunteers who have received basic training at Alcor.

When paramedic Larry Johnson joined Alcor as Director of
Clinical Services earlier this year, one of his first
decisions was to change the way we package our medications.
Formerly each set of meds was contained in numbered Zip-Loc
bags inside a rigid plastic Pelican-brand suitcase of the
type that is often used to transport photographic equipment.
Larry recommended that we switch to "Thomas packs," which are
padded backpacks specifically designed to hold pharmaceutical
supplies in color-coded compartments. These packs are widely
used by paramedics, and we adopted them earlier this year as
our new standard.

The medications in our kits include anticoagulants and
specially compounded drugs that help to minimize ischemic
injury to the brain. Critical Care Research, a California
laboratory specializing in resuscitation medicine, revamped
our medications based on their unique and unmatched success
in reviving dogs after substantial periods of warm ischemia
(lack of blood flow at normal body temperature). At this
time, Alcor is the only cryonics organization that has
obtained a license to use compounds developed and tested by

We are not claiming to prevent ischemic injury, but we
believe that our current medications enable us to delay it
more successfully than has been possible in the past.

To continue our regional upgrades, we hope to distribute more
Air Transportable Perfusion kits (ATPs) which enable blood
washout and intravenous cooling in remote locations. Surgical
trays containing instruments for vascular access must be
assembled to accompany each ATP, and our new lab assistant
Todd Huffman will be working on this with Hugh Hixon in the
near future.

Upgrading our regional capability has been a long-term goal
at Alcor. It took longer than we hoped, but is now becoming a

We can't afford to distribute meds kits and ATPs to every
part of the country, but if you live in an area where there
is a concentration of Alcor members, your first step should
be to attend our training course to learn how we treat
cryopatients immediately after legal death is pronounced.


                      Training Update

As reported in the previous Alcor News, Alcor's next training
sessions will be at Creekside Lodge, near Mayer, Arizona,
commencing Friday, October 24th and continuing until Monday,
October 27th. A free shuttle-bus service will transport
attendees to Creekside from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. The
shuttle takes approximately 90 minutes to make the journey.

Students who arrive at Creekside during the afternoon of
Friday 24th will find a free buffet waiting for them.
Registration will be at 6 PM, followed by an evening class
providing an overview of standby/transport tasks, problems,
and priorities.

Hands-on work will start the next day at 8 AM and will
continue till 6 PM, with a break for lunch in the Creekside
Lodge dining room. Classes on Sunday will run from 8 AM
through 7 PM.

Some of our students at the March training session commented
that the instruction could have been a little more intensive,
and we've taken their advice. If you spend the weekend with
us at Creekside in October, you should expect us to keep you
fully occupied.

Topics will include intubation, medications, cardiopulmonary
support, blood washout and intravenous cooling with the ATP,
and legal issues associated with cryonics. Students will be
able to practice with our equipment in the evenings.

We are planning to limit attendance to 20 students, who will
be divided into two groups of 10 for the hands-on work during
the weekend. Some students have already registered, so we
encourage you to make your reservation as soon as possible.

Learning the basics of cryonics field work is a challenging
but fulfilling experience, and can help you to establish a
nucleus of volunteers in your area. The more Alcor members
who become actively involved, the better the chances are for
all of us to receive a successful cryopreservation.

For additional information, please send email to:

              Paula Lemler 


      Progress Toward Intermediate Temperature Storage

In the previous Alcor News we reported that Alcor has
acquired the prototype of an Intermediate Temperature Storage
(ITS) device developed by Brian Wowk of 21st Century
Medicine. (For an explanation of why ITS is desirable, please
go to our archives at and check the
explanatory section in Alcor News #13 dated July 1st, 2003.)

Our new lab assistant, Todd Huffman, has been studying Brian
Wowk's design and has visited 21st Century Medicine to
discuss reliability issues and possible modifications. Since
the ITS pod will be cooled by positioning it above a pool of
liquid nitrogen inside a Dewar, we have been debating which
type of Dewar to use. An off-the-shelf industrial design is
available, large enough to contain seven ITS pods (one in the
center and six around it, in a hexagonal pattern). However,
our proprietary "bigfoot" Dewar design is much taller, only
slightly more expensive, and we have had extensive experience
operating them over the past decade. A "bigfoot" seems our
best option at this point.

In theory, it would be tall enough to contain a stack of
three layers of ITS pods, with seven pods in each layer. The
problem is that a tall Dewar will allow a more severe
temperature gradient. In other words, the pods at the top
will tend to be warmer than the pods at the bottom, and ITS
requires that the temperature should be controlled with some

One way around the problem is to use an internal framework of
metal such as aluminum, which is a good conductor of heat and
could minimize the temperature gradient. Another possibility
is to fill the lower part of the Dewar with conventional
neuropatients fully immersed in liquid nitrogen, with a
single layer of ITS pods above them at the top. The
disadvantage of this configuration is that we would have to
modify our standard neuropatient containment shell. Also
the ITS pods would get in the way during insertion or removal
of neuropatients.

Another issue which Todd is investigating is the optimal
refill system to maintain the reservoir of liquid nitrogen. A
gravity feed would provide the security of constant refill
without pumps, but would be grossly inefficient since the
pipe connecting it with the Dewar cannot be optimally
insulated and will promote nitrogen boiloff.

Using a pump for automatic refill sounds intuitively risky,
but low-temperature pump design has been perfected in
industrial applications, and a Dewar refill pump probably
would run only for a few minutes per week. Two pumps could be
installed in parallel for redundancy.

Todd has been tabulating every conceivable failure mode,
including liquid-nitrogen level sensor malfunction (Dewar
will boil dry), failure of temperature sensor inside ITS pod
(patient may become too cold or too warm), wire-break
failure, pod heater failure, control system failure, and many

Probably we will need four months to explore all these
failure modes and develop satisfactory solutions, after which
the construction and testing of actual patient storage units
may take another two months. This is longer than we would
like, but obviously the system must be absolutely reliable
before we can offer it as an option to our members.

We can't predict how much ITS will cost relative to
conventional Dewar storage until we have established all the
components in the system and have measured the liquid
nitrogen boiloff rate.


                     July Board Meeting

Here are some quick items from the board meeting which was
held at the Alcor facility in Scottsdale on July 13th:

Our membership administrator, Jennifer Chapman, reported that
Alcor membership is growing at an annualized rate of 10

A bulk storage liquid nitrogen tank has been located for our
new patient care bay, but construction of the patient care
bay is still being delayed by our difficulty in finding an
engineer who will come to the facility to evaluate the
strength of the roof, where we plan to install a crane for
Dewar-to-Dewar patient transfers.

Alcor's web site is being moved to a new hosting service,
where we will have direct control over the content.
(Previously, a web design company implemented every
alteration, which was a slow and costly procedure.) We hope
the new site will be up within another couple of weeks, but
the transfer must be carefully handled, since all of Alcor's
email addresses and email distribution lists will move to the
new hosting service along with the web pages.

Alcor is renewing its licensing agreement with 21st Century
Medicine for the vitrification solution which we use for
cryoprotection of our patients.

A plan to change our rules for remote standby will be
presented for a board vote at the September meeting. Also,
our board members will be up for election at that meeting.

Alcor director Ralph Merkle made a motion to transfer a
cryopatient from the CryoStar freezer into conventional
liquid nitrogen storage. Five directors voted in favor, one
abstained, and one voted against. The transfer has since
taken place. This helped to resolve an issue which has been a
source of debate during several board meetings. For further
details, see "The CryoStar Controversy," below.

Paramedic Larry Johnson, who serves as Alcor's Director of
Clinical Services, has completed all the necessary signup
paperwork and is now an Alcor member. Jerry Lemler stated
that Larry will be taking on responsibilities of Chief
Operating Officer, since Charles Platt resigned from that
position (as reported in the previous Alcor News). However,
any appointee to the position of C.O.O. must be confirmed by
the Alcor board.

All Alcor board meetings are open to the public. The dates of
future meetings have been established for the rest of the

     Sunday, August 10th.
     Sunday, September 7th.
     Sunday, October 5th.
     Sunday, November 2nd.
     Sunday, December 14th.

Meetings usually begin at 10 AM during the summer months and
11 AM in the winter. They are held at the Alcor facility in
Scottsdale. Please contact Alcor for additional details.


                 The CryoStar Controversy

Rick Potvin, an Alcor member who lives in the Phoenix area,
has been publishing some personal commentary about Alcor on a
web site which some of our members may have visited after
Rick publicized it on CryoNet. We welcome opinions and
suggestions from anyone who takes an active interest in
cryonics, but we found some of Rick's statements a bit
surprising. For instance, he wrote on July 14th:

"In trying to figure out what I can say and not say--which I
suppose is going to be par for the course if I continue to
write about cryonics--I concluded that it's okay to talk
about what a piece of junk the Cryostar is."

Alcor owns a CryoStar freezer of a type that is a standard
item of equipment in hundreds of laboratories, and our
directors, advisors, and staff have been discussing the
relative merits of maintaining patients around -125 degrees
Celsius in the CryoStar instead of immersing them at -196
degrees in liquid nitrogen. While we are waiting for the Wowk
design of Intermediate Temperature Storage pod to be refined
and tested, the CryoStar can provide ITS on an interim basis
right now, and has proved that it will reduce the incidence
of fractures which tend to occur after vitrification. Alcor
clearly should do whatever it can to minimize all forms of
damage to its patients.

The disadvantages of the CryoStar are obvious: It requires a
supply of electricity and contains a compressor and a
thermostat, just like a domestic refrigerator. It is fitted
with an alarm and a highly dependable liquid-nitrogen backup
system, and a patient can be "evacuated" from it quickly if
necessary; but overall it may be less reliable than a Dewar.

That said, we feel that characterizing the CryoStar as "a
piece of junk" may be a bit misleading.

A recent concern about the performance of our CryoStar was
resolved when a technician visited Alcor and noted that the
ambient temperature in the operating environment should not
exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Exceptionally hot Phoenix
summer weather had driven the temperature above 80 degrees in
our patient care bay, even with Alcor's industrial-strength
air conditioning running constantly.

We considered options such as adding extra insulation to the
CryoStar, adding a standalone air-conditioning unit in the
patient care bay, adding a blower to increase the efficiency
of the CryoStar's heat exchanger, or devising a liquid-
nitrogen vapor system that would cool the heat exchanger more
aggressively. So far, the first of these options has been
implemented with some success.

We welcome debate on current issues at Alcor, and we welcome
visitors to our board meetings. However, debate is pointless
if it is based on misconceptions or oversimplifications, and
the CryoStar issue has been complicated enough to sustain in-
house discussions and disagreements for almost a year. Anyone
who is interested in airing this kind of issue publicly
should feel free to do so, but we invite them to contact us
for some basic fact-checking first.

Alcor News is written primarily by Charles Platt.
Contents are copyright 2003 by Alcor 
Foundation but permission is granted to reprint any whole 
news item, so long as Alcor is credited as the source and 
the reprint includes our URL at