Freezing people for the future back in spotlight

By Chen Xia
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 26, 2017
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The entire body of a 49-year-old woman from Shandong Province in east China was cryogenically frozen after she died of lung cancer on Aug. 14. It is the first of such cases in China.

Besides Zhan's family, who is hoping to preserve her body until advances in science can bring her back to life, the case brought another man back into the public eye.

Zheng Kuifei was born in Wenzhou City in east China's Zhejiang Province in 1978. He pioneered China's cryonics research over a decade ago, but eventually abandoned the pursuit after 10 years of study. He is now a businessman engaged in the internetindustry in Hangzhou City, the provincial capital of Zhejiang.

In an interview with local newspaper Qianjiang Evening News on Aug. 21, he revealed that before Zhan received the operation, the operation's organizer Yinfeng Life Science Foundation had approached him to see if there could be an opportunity for cooperation. "I refused the invitation, because I have left the profession years ago," Zheng said.

When Zheng first studied cryonics, it was a worldwide new discipline. At that time, scientists shared similar thoughts on freezing and preservation techniques, but opinions differed greatly as to how to revive the frozen person. "After so many years, there is still no definite answer," Zheng said.

Zheng spent 10 years researching from 2003. He originally majored in Chinese literature in the Beijing Normal University, but he quit the school attended classes of other universities in Beijing and Hong Kong. At last, he got enrolled in an on-the-job postgraduate program on biology at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Around 2002, I went to the United States and got a chance to learn cryonics. I felt it had great untapped potential, so I began to focus myself on it," Zheng said.

During his study, he managed to form partnerships with professors from Zhejiang University and medical specialists from private hospitals. The team had conducted the experiment on mice.

"I had potential clients at the time," Zheng said."I developed a commercial plan. The price for freezing a body for 30 years was about 1 million yuan, at which point we would find out if we can revive the person. But in the end I gave up the plan."

Zheng hesitated at the last second for a variety of reasons. First, he felt doubtful if science can bring a frozen body back to life even after decades of development, and this remains a major obstacle today.

Second, Zheng had significant legal concerns. A sound legal system is in place now. However, when Zhan underwent the operation, her family just needed to follow established legal procedures and signed all the papers necessary to get the work done. But 10 years ago, there were no relevant rules. "Risks in the legal field were too high," Zheng said.

The third concern for Zheng was ethical. "How to ensure the person you revive is the same as before? I was haunted by this idea, so I eventually gave it up," he said.

After 2013, Zheng gradually abandoned his pursuit in this biological field, and switched his studies to the philosophical and educational fields. He also invested in the internet industry in Hangzhou.

Yet, Zheng remains hopeful about the study's future. "Every study has its 'big bang moment,'" he said. "The development of AI is a case in point. Once its moment came, things turned totally different."

Zheng believes the moment for cryonics will come sooner or later. "Human beings' pursuit for a longer life is endless,"he said.

So far, more than 300 human bodies have been frozen cryogenically in the world, but none of them have been brought back to life yet.


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