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Cradle emerges with $48m to build reversible cryonics technology

Laura Deming-founded startup targets ‘human whole-body reversible cryopreservation’ after demonstrating the recovery of electrical activity in neural tissue.

Cryonics startup Cradle was unveiled this week, boasting $48 million in funding and a mission to develop and prove the feasibility of whole-body reversible cryopreservation. Co-founded by venture capitalist and longevity pioneer Laura Deming and chief scientist Hunter C Davis, the company is built on the belief that pausing and restarting biological functions on demand is a solvable problem.

“We’re building reversible cryo technologies,” said Deming in a post on X. “Think the hibernation pods you see in space movies for long-term travel – we want to build that.”

Cradle’s approach to cryopreservation focuses on pausing molecular motion through cooling, thus preventing tissue damage that typically occurs during freezing. This concept leverages technologies like those used in in vitro fertilization (IVF), where embryos can be stored at cryogenic temperatures for extended periods.

By adapting and scaling these principles, Cradle seeks to achieve cryopreservation of larger biological systems, including human organs and potentially whole bodies. The company’s web site states “We are optimistic that human whole-body reversible cryopreservation is solvable.”

Neural electrical activity recovered

Cradle has identified three areas of medicine that it believes its technology can potentially benefit. First, by cryopreserving neural tissue, the company aims to improve the accessibility of human brain tissue samples for research, potentially accelerating drug development and neuroscience research. Second, Cradle believes that cryopreservation could extend the viability window for donor organs, allowing more time for testing and matching, thereby reducing rejection rates and improving transplant outcomes. And finally, the company suggests its technology could allow patients with terminal illnesses to pause their biological time, giving them the opportunity to survive until effective treatments become available.

Cradle said its first major milestone, achieved in February 2024, involved recovering electrical activity in a cryopreserved and rewarmed slice of rodent neural tissue. The company claims this breakthrough serves as a foundational proof of concept, paving the way for its more ambitious goals.

Next steps for Cradle include demonstrating preserved synaptic function and long-term potentiation in cryopreserved neural tissue, and eventually, achieving functional preservation of whole organs and even entire organisms. The company’s stated milestones include:

  • Functional preservation of long-range neuronal projections in a small animal model.
  • Successful preservation and rewarming of a whole organ isolated from a large animal model.
  • Conducting a clinical trial for human organ cryopreservation.
  • Achieving reversible whole-body cryopreservation in a small animal model.

‘Look past cognitive biases’

To achieve its objectives, Cradle says it is developing sophisticated engineering systems for vascular perfusion, vitrification, and rapid rewarming. Additionally, the company is working on new cryoprotectant molecules that address the toxicity issues associated with current approaches, as well as developing assays to measure neural tissue viability post-cryopreservation and creating surgical protocols for preparing organs and organisms for the process.

While the concept of reversible full-body cryopreservation may sound like science fiction to some, Deming addresses the doubters on Cradle’s web site, stating, “I feel incredibly angry when I find problems which could help patients, but which aren’t worked on because they seem uncool or haven’t been well evaluated. I think we, as humans, should try as hard as we can to find the best path to cures for patients, and to look past cognitive biases that get in the way of perceiving them correctly.”

We’ll be following developments at Cradle and across the cryopreservation space with great interest!

READ MORE: The rise of cryopreservation in Europe