The big chill

A new discovery about yet another bizarre property of water could pave the way for cryopreservation. According to Anatoli Bogdan of the University of Helsinki, it might be possible to freeze the human body without devastating ice crystals forming in cells and bursting them. In medicine, cryopreservation is used to store sperm and embryos successfully, but whole organs are trickier because of the icy problem. Ice also seems to preclude the possibility of freezing someone before they die of an incurable disease and then thawing them out in years to come when a cure has been found. Bogdan's results suggest this may be possible outside of science fiction after all. He has found that he can produce low-density amorphous ice, or glassy water, by slowly supercooling aqueous droplets. When this glassy water melts it forms a highly viscous water, which Bogdan explains is not a new form of water, but because the freezing and melting processes side-step the crystal phase it could have implications for cryopreservation.