Cryonics Institute

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The Cryonics Institute (CI) is a member-owned-and-operated not-for-profit corporation which provides cryonics services. CI is located in Clinton Township, Michigan. As of 1-March-2008, CI had 86 cryonically prepared human patients, 52 pets and 132 human tissue/DNA samples and 21 pet tissue/DNA samples in liquid nitrogen storage.[1]


The Cryonics Institute (CI) was incorporated in the state of Michigan on 4-April-1976 by four Michigan residents: R.C. Davis, Robert C.W. Ettinger, Mae A. Junod and Walter E. Runkel. Robert Ettinger is widely known as "the father of cryonics" because his book THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY is believed to have launched the cryonics movement. Robert Ettinger was CI President for over 25 years until September 2003 when Ben Best became President/CEO and Robert Ettinger became Vice-President. Robert Ettinger retired as Vice-President on his 87th birthday in December 2005, but remained a Director until new Directors were elected in September 2006.

In 1976, CI performed its first human cryopreservation. In 2003 an article was published in Sports Illustrated magazine claiming that the cryonics organization Alcor had mishandled the cryopreservation of baseball star Ted Williams. Despite the fact that the Cryonics Institute was not involved in the case, the media hype spurred the State of Michigan to place CI under a "Cease and Desist" order for six months. Finally the Michigan government decided to license and regulate the Cryonics Institute as a cemetery.


Cryonics Institute main facility in Clinton Township, Michigan

All Officers[2] of the Cryonics Institute are also Directors.[3] As of 2008, the Cryonics Institute Officers were:

  • President: Ben Best
  • Vice-President: John de Rivaz
  • Secretary: Royse Brown
  • Assistant Secretary: Joseph Kowalsky
  • Treasurer: Patrick Heller
  • Assistant Treasurer: S.R. Luyckx
  • Contract Officer: Constance Ettinger

As of 1-March-2008, CI had 718 members, 324 of whom had funding and contracts in place to be cryopreserved upon legal death. Forty-seven of those funded members had contracts with Suspended Animation, Inc. for standby and transport.[4]


The Cryonics Institute has 12 Directors on its Board,[3] four of whom are elected by the members every year at the Annual General Meeting (usually held on the last Sunday of September). The Board then selects the Officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Unlike other cryonics organizations, the Cryonics Institute only allows its members to arrange for whole body storage, not simply heads. Anyone can become an Option One Member by paying $1,250 and filling out a membership form -- or become an Option Two Member by paying a $75 Initiation fee plus $120 per year (or $35 per quarter). An Option One Member has the privilege of making arrangements for perfusion and storage in liquid nitrogen for $28,000, whereas an Option Two Member must pay $35,000.[5] CI has not raised the $28,000 price or $1,250 fee since the time of its inception in 1976.

The Immortalist Society is a closely associated educational organization that publishes the magazine The Immortalist every two months. The Immortalist reports on activities of the Cryonics Institute along with other information related to cryonics and life extension.

Technical Procedures

For most of its history the Cryonics Institute perfused patients with the (antifreeze) cryoprotectant glycerol, but in the year 2000 a cryobiologist was hired: Yuri Pichugin, Ph.D. who had done research on the Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation Project (HSCP). HSCP was a project focused on vitrification of rat brain hippocampal slices which involved cooling to −130 degrees Celsius, rewarming and testing for viability. The results of the HSPC were published in the April 2006 issue of the journal Cryobiology.[6]

At the Cryonics Institute Dr. Pichugin developed a vitrification mixture which is superior to glycerol in preventing ice formation. This vitrification mixture was first applied to two dogs of members who wanted their pets cryopreserved in 2004 and early 2005. The first human patient received the vitrification mixture in the summer of 2005 using a new procedure in which the head was vitrified while still attached to the body, which was frozen without any cryoprotectant.[7] In February 2007 the Cryonics Institute abandoned its efforts to patent its vitrification mixture and disclosed the formula to preclude others from preventing its use by CI.[8]

In the summer of 2005, the Cryonics Institute obtained some custom-built computer-controlled cooling boxes, with LabVIEW software which would allow controlled cooling to a temperature as low as −192°C (−313°F). This equipment was necessary for effective application of vitrification, because cooling should be as fast as possible prior to the solidification temperature of the vitrification mixture (about −125°C), but cooling should be very slow below that temperature to reduce cracking due to thermal stress.

The basic $28,000/$35,000 cryopreservation fees and contract with the Cryonics Institute does not include Standby or Transport. CI members living outside of Michigan must normally provide extra funding to pay for funeral director services and shipping. CI members wanting Standby and Transport from cryonics professionals can contract for additional payment to the Florida-based company Suspended Animation, Inc.

Instead of using dewars for storage, the Cryonics Institute keeps its patients in large fiberglass/resin liquid-nitrogen-filled "thermos bottles" which CI calls "cryostats". The first dewars were hand-built by Facilities Manager Andy Zawacki, but now the units are custom built by an external manufacturer. Costs for liquid nitrogen in the newest and most efficient cryostats was below $100 per patient per year in May 2006. Cost reduction is greatly assisted by the use of a 3,000 gallon bulk tank for liquid nitrogen.


  1. Cryonics Institute (CI) Statistics Details. Cryonics Institute. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  2. Officers of the Cryonics Institute. Cryonics Institute. Retrieved on 2007-09-02.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Directors of the Cryonics Institute. Cryonics Institute. Retrieved on 2007-09-02.
  4. Suspended Animation. Suspended Animation, Inc.. Retrieved on 2008-03-02.
  5. Becoming A Member: the FAQ. Cryonics Institute. Retrieved on 2007-03-09.
  6. Pichugin,Fahy,Morin (April 2006). "Cryopreservation of rat hippocampal slices by vitrification". CRYOBIOLOGY 52: 228-240.
  7. Ben Best. The Cryonics Institute's 69th Patient. Cryonics Institute. Retrieved on 2007-03-09.
  8. Best, Ben (February 23, 2007). Cryonics Institute Vitrification Formula Disclosure. CryoNet. Retrieved on 2007-09-02.