Talk:Brian Wowk

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Old talk[edit]

The attempt to delete this entry is inappropriate. I will be happy to work with anyone wishing to properly document Dr. Wowk's life. Dr. Wowk has been critical to cryonics, and to all advances in solid state organ cryopreservation made since he joined 21st Century Medicine, Inc., His work is critical in organ cryopreservation via vitrification for the following reasons (to name a few):

Wowk began the first systematic search for molecules to inhibit (hexagonal) ice growth by using a Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) to screen hundreds of compounds which might have this property. The basis of this work was a careful evaluation of naturally occurring ice growth inhibiting proteins and glycoproteins; molecules found in antarctic fishes and other organisms that live and reproduce in subzero conditions by supercooling their body water via "antifreeze proteins" which inhibit primarily C-axis ice growth. [1] [2]

Wowk's search included many polymers which lead to the discovery of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) as an ice growth inhibiting compound. In a brilliant move, Wowk, working with organic chemist Eugen Leitl, modified the structure of PVA, shortening the length of the polymer chains and altering its structure, in an attempt to facilitate its bonding with both the A and C axis faces of hexagonal ice crystals. [Wowk B, Leitl E, Rasch CM, Mesbah-Karimi N, Harris SB, Fahy GM. Vitrification enhancement by synthetic ice blocking agents. Cryobiology. 2000 May;40(3):228-36.] This maneuver "apparently" succeeded (see below)and lead to the development of the first synthetic and the first commercially available ice inhibiting compound, X-1000 which is marketed by 21st Century Medicine, Inc., as Supercool X-1000 [3], as an adjunct to vitrification of organs, embryos, corneas, tissue culture cells, and other living systems. [4]

X-1000 was the critical breakthrough which allowed the development of the first truly stable vitrification solutions.[ Successful transplanation of kidneys after cooling to -45° C. Fahy GM, Wowk B, Wu J, Phan J, Rasch C, Chang A, Zendejas E, in: Cryobiology, (2004, vol. 48), "Cryopreservation of organs by vitrification: perspectives and recent advances", pg. 157-178.] These solutions could be cooled or rewarmed at physiologically attainable rates without "devitrifying" or forming lethal ice. Prior to Wowk's developoment of X-1000 and Z-1000 rewarming rats of in excess of 300 degrees/C/min were required to prevent devitrification of organs; a rate of rewarming that would require homogenous radio frequency (RF) heating. Uniform RF heating of inhomogenous solids such as organs or whole animals is extremely difficult in theory and has never been achieved in practice.

Prior to the development of X-1000 devitrification (freezing) of the solution, tissue, or organ, especially during rewarming, was a uniformly lethal event that prevented any attempts at large scale solid organ cryopreservation from succeeding. Wowk, working with Dr. Gregory M. Fahy, recently became the first investigators to report the successful vitrification of a parenchymatous mammalian organ; in this case the rabbit kidney. The kidney not only survived vitrification and cooling to -135 degrees C, but was able to support the animal as the sole kidney after autologous reimplantation (and contralateral nrephrectomy).

Wowk was the first to appreciate that X-1,000 was not, as he had first thought, a true ice-blocking molecule; in other words, it did not act by binding to or covering ice crystal faces and preventing further ice growth. Rather, the molecule (and the subsequent ones Wowk discovered) appears to act by binding to ice nucleators, poorly understood molecular species which trigger ice growth in water, and are responsible for the heterogeneous nucleating point of ice (0 degrees C). The homogenous nucleating point of water is -40 degrees C. Many organisms appear to exploit these two "different" freezing points of water by either purging themselves of nucleating species, or producing molecules, which, like X-1000 block the activity of nucleators allowing them to survive routine and sustained to cooling nearly -40 degrees C.

Wowk went on to discover a completely new class of anti-nucleator molecules (which also proved critical to the recent breakthrough in kidney vitrification) due to his brilliant insight into the molecular character of nucleating inhibitors. This lead to his discovery of the potent antinucleation and ice inhibiting capabilities of the polglycerols; low molecular weight polymers of glycerol which neutralize the activity of ice nucleators.[Wowk B, Fahy GM. Inhibition of bacterial ice nucleation by polyglycerol polymers. Cryobiology. 2002 Feb;44(1):14-23.] These molecules are marketed by 21st Century Medicine, Inc. as Z-1000. This has lead to the ability to stabilize conventional colligative cryoprotectant solutions to the point where no ice formation occurs even after a year of storage at or near the glass transition point for these solutions. This innovation opens the door to the possibility of not only whole organ, but whole animal cryopreservation (i.e., suspended animation). Formerly, these solutions would have frozen within minutes to hours of slow (0.3 degree/C/min or less cooling or rewarming); now they are stable for 24 hours or more at deep subzero temperatures allowing sufficient time to cool to completely (indefinitely) stable temperatures (i.e., below the solidification or glass transition point (Tg)of the cryoprotectant solution: typically in the range of -135 to -145 degrees C) allowing for cooling and rewarmig of organs, and potentially even whole mammals, without the risk of lethal ice formation.

Wowk is also responsible for the realization that ethylene glycol (EG) was likely a superior colligative cryoptotectant to polyethelene glycol which was then in use as a critical facilitator of vitrification in VS41A, the only organ vitrification solution which had shown promise prior to that time. Historically, EG was considered unacceptable as a cryoprotectant in mammalian tissues because it is metabolized into glycolic acid, glyoxylic, oxalic, and lactic acids which are toxic. EG intoxication also results in calcium oxalate crystals being deposited in the brain, lungs, kidneys, and heart. Wowk reasoned that these effects might not be problematic providing that EG was introduced and removed under conditions of deep hypothermia where the action of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), the enzyme responsible for EG’s metabolism to toxic compounds, is inhibited. Further, the use of ADH inhibitors such as 4-methyl pyrazole, could be used to abolish EG toxicity completely and prevent injury to the animal from any residual EG remaining after cryoprotectant solution is washed out.

By evaluating the membrane solubility of various cryoprotective compounds, Wowk realized that EG should be considerably less toxic than propylene glycol (PG)or even even dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) being used in VS41A and other vitrification solutions. The substitution of EG for PG proved essential in vastly reducing the toxicity of organ vitrification solutions while enhancing their glass forming (ice suppressing) ability. Subsequent testing of this hypothesis proved EG essential to organ vitrification and it is a principal ingredient in all 21st Century Medicine organ vitrification (cryopreservation) solutions. [Fahy GM, Wowk B, Wu J, Paynter S. Improved vitrification solutions based on the predictability of vitrification solution toxicity. Cryobiology. 2004 Feb;48(1):22-35.]

Wowk has also developed DSC evaluation techniques to detect and predict devitrification (ice formation) in organs undergoing cryopreservation for transplant. Wowk’s DSC technique was the first to identify small areas in organs otherwise well equilibrated with cryoprotectant, that were undergoing partial freezing, thus rendering them non-viable. [Cryopreservation of organs by vitrification: perspectives and recent advances. [Fahy GM, Wowk B, Wu J, Phan J, Rasch C, Chang A, Zendejas E. Cryobiology. 2004 Apr;48(2):157-78.]

Wowk is also critical to the evolution of the cryonics movement for the following reasons:

Wowk co-authored the book CRYONICS: REACHING FOR TOMORROW (CRFT) (Softcover, ISBN: 1880209004, Publisher: Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 1991) with Alcor President Michael Darwin. This book was used as the principal promotional tool by Alcor for almost a decade during the period of Alcor’s greatest growth and improvement in public acceptance of cryonics. CRFT was provided to all persons making inquiriesto Alcor and was used a primary outreach and educational tool about both cryonics and Alcor for the mass media by Alcor. With this publication, Wowk made major contributions not only to the scientific rigor with which cryonics was presented to the public, but also is largely responsible for redefining, literally, the definition of cryonics [see also:]. Both Darwin and Wowk realized that the dictionary definition of cryonics as the (sic)"practice of freezing corpses or newly dead people for future cure and restoration to life" was incorrect. It was Wowk who vigorously promoted the idea of redefining cryonics, not as an attempted therapeutic action upon a corpse, but rather as an emergency procedure carried out on a patient who could not be resuscitated by contemporary medical criteria. The issue was really "when is a person dead?" Most people pronounced dead today are not truly “irreversibly” dead, rather they are simply not considered salvageable by contemporary medicine, mostly because prolongation of life in such patients would be medically futile and against the patient's wishes. [Whetstine L, Streat S, Darwin M, Crippen D, in: Critical Care, (2005, vol. 9), "Pro/con ethics debate: When is dead really dead?] Wowk sought to define death more rigorously, primarily by information-theoretic criteria which state that death (irreversible loss of function) does not occur until the molecular structure of the human bran is rendered undecipherable and not repairable by foreseeable technology which does not violate physical law (i.e. molecular nanotechnology).

This shift in the definition of cryonics resulted in more widespread media and public acceptance. Wowk stated (sic)"our disagreement is not over the possibility of reviving the dead: by definition that is impossible. Rather, we disagree over when to pronounce death and give up on a patient. Cryonics patients must be considered neither certainly dead nor certainly alive, but rather in the same condition as a patient receiving CPR on the way to a hospital: prognosis uncertain."

Wowk was a frequent and seminal contributor to Cryonics magazine from the 1980s throughout the 1990s. [5] contributing articles on cell repair technology (including some of the first illustrations and visualizations of hypothetical cell repair devices to be used in resuscitating human cryonics patients. See:


Wowk's contributions to both cryobiology and cryonics have continued with his groundbreaking and innovative patent applications allowing for safe, reliable, and economical isothermal storage of organs and human cryopatients. A major problem in organ and human cryopreservation is that vitrified materials are weak glasses. As such, like commercial silica glasses, they will crack or fracture if cooled too far below their point of solidification (i.e., the glass transition point, Tg) without proper annealing (stress relief). This phenomenon was first documented in human cryonics patients by Mike Darwin in his paper "Postmortem examination of three human cryonic suspension patients." [7]

Wowk has developed an elegant system which allows storage of objects as large as human bodies at a temperature just below Tg with virtually no fluctuation in temperature thus avoiding fracturing. The system consists of an insulated inner container which is placed in a liquid nitrogen cooled cryogenic Dewar. The interior can of the insulated inner container consists of heat conductive metal. A small heater, tightly controlled by computer, or other means, warms the interior of the inner container *homogenously* to the desired (dialed in) temperature. Temperature control by this means can be with 0.001 degrees C.[ Wowk, Brian ; et al., United States Patent Application, 20050016198, January 27, 200, Cryogenic storage system.] Prior to the development of this "infinitely" adjustable isothermal storage technique, this arbitrary degree of homogenous temperature control was not possible. Wowk has worked extensively with the cryonics Timeship project [8] to develop this technology for human cryopreservation and holds a patent on a Timeship human cryopreservation storage module using this technology. [Iarocci, Michael ; et al., United States Patent Application, 20050005614, January 13, 2005, Cryogenic storage system with improved temperature control.]

Wowk is one of the seminal thinkers in both cryonics and cryobiology of both the late 20th and the early 21st Centuries. The above examples are only a few of his contributions. I will be happy to assist in a comprehensive biography of Wowk, including extensive biographical details of his early life, extensive writings on cryonics, and his contributions to diverse areas of cryobiology. Wowk has continued his deep involvement in cryonics through the present and recently authored an article on hydrogen sulfide as a possible adjunct to inducing reduced metabolism during stabilization of cryonics patients: and an article restating his original arguments from 1991 on the definition and basis for cryonics: [9]. Wowk has also recently written material explaining and defending procedures used in cryonics patients: [10]

Wowk is a major innovator and pioneer in the areas of tissue and organ cryopreservation, basic cryobiology, and cryonics theory and practice. His contributions to these areas are on a par with (or exceed) other leaders in these fields featured on Wikipedia such as Robert Ettinger, Mike Darwin, Dr. Gregory M. Fahy, and Jerry D. Leaf.

Wowk’s long history of publications, scientific achievements, and public advocacy for cryonics establish him as both a public figure and a person of historical significance in both disciplines. He is unquestionably a suitable subject for an encylopedic entry.

The issue of copyright over the photograph of Dr. Wowk can be circumvented by me (necrobiologist) providing a photograph of Dr. Wowk to which I have copyright.

Hey there, I would be willing to work with you on this article. I do not know a lot about him, but I had read of him, heard him speak, etc. and thought he deserved an entry. (Cardsplayer4life 10:46, 21 February 2006 (UTC))

I am not skilled at Wikipedia. I am willing to work with you in any way I can to produce a comprehensive and unassailably well documented biography of Dr. Wowk. Dr. Wowk is a brilliant scientist who has made absolutely pivotal contributions to reversible organ cryopreservation. This work may well lead to cryobanking of organs revolutionizing the way transplantation is carried out; including allowing for immunological preconditioning of recipients to reduce rejection, and the obvious logistic advantages of being able to maintain an organ inventory and to better screen organs for communicable disease prior to transplantation. Beyond this, Wowk's work has served as the basis for rapid advances in cryopreservation of the mammaliam brain [Pichugin Y, Fahy GM, Morin R. Cryopreservation of rat hippocampal slices by vitrification. Cryobiology. 2006 Jan 3; [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 16403489]. Whole rabbit brain cryopreservation with preservation of essentially normal brain ultrastructure using ice inhibiting molecules developed by Wowk and vitrification solutions developed by Wowk and Fahy have already been documented in the PNAS and EMs of the work are available on the Alcor website. Wowk has served as the principal conduit for implementation of vitrification technology by the Alcor Life Extenson Foundation; a procedure Alcor has carried out on over half a dozen cryonics patients as a direct result of Wowk's efforts.

Wowk has a long history of involvement in other disciplines such as cryonics, transhumanism and immortalism, which are considered by many as pseudoscientific, and are, at best, considered controversial. It is understandable why Wowk would want to obscure, or even obliterate, the historical record in this respect. However, the record is clear and unequivocal. It is in the nature of the internet that public actions and history remain just that: public. Attempts to supress or hide the legitimate history of this man are neither practical nor morally or ethically justified. Wowk is rumored to post to Wikipedia under the name "Cryobiologist." If this is true, then he is especially fair game to have a definitive, honest and all inclusive Wikibiography. I will help in any way I can if you tell me how to do so. Necrobiologist

You wrote: "I am not skilled at Wikipedia". The two cornerstones of wikipedia is notability and verifiability. Wikipedia does not have peer review. Therefore wikipedia's articles may be based only on publications in reputable sources, which, in our case, would establish the notability of Wowk. There have been millions of scientists and engineers writing articles and making useful things. The question is how their impact was recognized. mikka (t) 12:19, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

You state (correctly): "Therefore wikipedia's articles may be based only on publications in reputable sources, which, in our case, would establish the notability of Wowk. There have been millions of scientists and engineers writing articles and making useful things. The question is how their impact was recognized."

Wowk would deserve an entry for his contributions to cryonics alone, particularly his authorship of CRFT which changed the paradigm of how the discipline was understood and lead to a period of rapid growth and greater public acceptance. Wowk is also a pioneer in the area of molecular nanotechnology and his drawings and pioneering proposals for repair of cryoinjured patients are well documented. His contributions to organ cryopreservation have directly resulted in succesful cryopreservation of the first mammalian organ. What standard of impact is required beyond this? The creation of organ banks? Is the improvement of human brain cryopreservation in cryonics from one of massive injury to one of virtually perfect structural preservation not a sufficient accomplishment? Certainly, this improvement is being used to promote cryonics, increase its credibility, and recruit more members and patients (successfully). This work allowed the publication of the first cryonics material in the PNAS, certainly a milestone in the history of a marginal discipline like cryonics. If cryonics were not extensively covered elsewhere in Wikipedia I might agree that these deveopments are not "worthy." However, Wowk has been at least as influential in cryonics as Thomas Donaldson and Mike Darwin, both of whom also have Wiki biographies.

You are totally missing my point. Who of experts in the area (beyond his colleagues, management and buddies) recognizes his contributions and where this recognition is published? Popular science and websites as sources generally do not count, unless articles are by reputable, known people. Please avoid long essays in talk pages and directly address objections. Please understand that what you wrote is your opinion. I have no reasons to believe you. Because of internet anonymity I cannot tell you from a 12-year old pokemon fan, for good or for bad. Once again, published peer opinion, please. mikka (t) 21:19, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Re-written article[edit]

Dr. Wowk did not like the previous versions of this article, so I have worked with him to produce a version that is acceptable to him. Today this totally re-written piece replaced the previous version mostly written by Cardsplayer4life, which is currently under review for deletion. I personally believe that Dr. Wowk is a very capable scientist whose work is noteworthy, and that he should be included in Wikipedia. I hope that the other editors find this version acceptable. I think Dr. Wowk is going to be even more recognized for his future work than for the work he has already done. --Ben Best 16:01, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Nice, thanks for the help! Since I do not know him personally, I did not know he was unhappy with the previous version(s). I just felt (from reading text he wrote and seeing him speak) that he deserved a wikipedia entry, and am happy he is now pleased with the version. (Cardsplayer4life 20:55, 21 February 2006 (UTC))

Comments by Brian Wowk himself[edit]

I was going to stay out of this, but Necrobiologist (rumored to be Mike Darwin) has written:

"Wowk has a long history of involvement in other disciplines such as cryonics, transhumanism and immortalism, which are considered by many as pseudoscientific, and are, at best, considered controversial. It is understandable why Wowk would want to obscure, or even obliterate, the historical record in this respect. However, the record is clear and unequivocal. It is in the nature of the internet that public actions and history remain just that: public. Attempts to supress or hide the legitimate history of this man are neither practical nor morally or ethically justified. Wowk is rumored to post to Wikipedia under the name "Cryobiologist." If this is true, then he is especially fair game to have a definitive, honest and all inclusive Wikibiography. I will help in any way I can if you tell me how to do so."

This commentary has the nature of a threat to load the article toward controversial topics. Such an agenda, if there is one, would be consistent with Darwin's privately expressed anger toward me over his belief that I recently created his Wikipedia entry. I will state for the record that I have never under the cloak of any identity created Darwin's or anyone else's Wikipedia article with the intent of posting information that they themsleves would not want there. I have even offered to amend and maintain Darwin's entry so as to address any concerns he may have. I have even went out of my way to ask him whether new material others posted was okay with him. This is in distinction from the message above, in which "Necrobiologist" seems to say any content concerns I may have about my article don't matter. So let me ask you, Necrobiologist, do you feel the controversial side is fairly represented in the current article, or do you plan on adding more controversial topic material, or encouraging others to do so? Brian Wowk 22:10, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

No threat was express or implied. My comments merely speculated on why Wowk did not want a Wikipedia entry. Wowk's work both in cryonics and cryobiology have been central to undersanding the evolution of both disciplines. As I have noted, they constitute fundamental insights and advances. I have no interest in selectively representing the controvesial sides, nor in editing this area further. I would like to see a "Technical Accomplishments" section which simply list dates and achievements; particularly for Wowk's contributions to the evolution of biovitrification and organ cryopreservation. As to Wowk's speculaton that Necrobiologit might be Mike Darwin, this speculation may well be as baseless as my speculation that Cryobiologist might be Wowk. I have the highest regard for Wowk as a scientist and feel confident that the historical record will validate him as one of the major contributors to the fields of both organ cryopreservation and human suspended animation. I regret if Wowk misinterpreted my talk here as any kind of a threat. That was not the intention. Threats are a fool's game and a sign of weakness. --Necrobiologist 01:14, 22 February 2006 (UTC) Necrobiologist
Why did you believe I didn't want a Wikipedia entry? Until today I have been totally silent in this debate, except for providing Ben Best with material to improve the entry. Do you mistakenly believe "mikka" is my sock puppet? I was offended by your post because it implied I was a hypocrit by opposing my own article even though I privately defended inclusion of the Darwin article. But I have never opposed my own article, at least not in principle. If you thought I did, then I guess that explains the tone and content of your post. But I don't know why you thought that. Brian Wowk 02:19, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Dr. Wowk, I wish to apologize if I in any way, as the creator of this article, made you out to be something that you wish not to be. I saw you initially at the Immortality Institute's conference and was fascinated by what I heard. I would never have wished you to be represented in a light that was not what you wanted. I only thought you deserved an appropriate wikipedia article. (Cardsplayer4life 04:26, 22 February 2006 (UTC))
I am honored, Cardsplayer4Llife, that you created an article. This would have been a smooth process were it not for Necrobiologist's post to this page today. His vastly-too-long collection of personal recollections, rather than published sources, is a major distraction, and rife with errors. One of the most egregious errors is the assertion that I'm responsible for substituting ethylene glycol for propylene glycol in VS41A. Regardless of any personal interest I had in ethylene glycol as a cryoprotectant at the time, the substitution in question was entirely Greg Fahy's work, not mine.
I regret that your gesture led to this messy discussion page. While I believe Necrobiologist is sincere, and I thank him for his positive comments, mikka's objections should have been addressed by reference to published sources. I would have already helped interested parties with this were it not for the distraction created by today's huge posting.
I don't think it's right for this article to be supported by a long contribution of unsupported and partly erroneous statements by an anonymous poster, however well-intentioned. It's certainly not appropriate for a professional scientist. I now think that the best thing is for this article to be deleted so that the discussion can be started fresh, and in accordance with Wikipedia guidelines. Brian Wowk 06:05, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Rather than talking niceties to each other, if you want this article in whatever form, please address the major concern related to the existence of the article, posted by me earlier. mikka (t) 07:02, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Although Dr. Wowk did not substitute ethylene glycol for propylene glycol, he has made singular contributions to vitrification by his development of synthetic ice blockers and addition of methoxylated compounds to vitrification mixtures. The success of M22 in vitrification of kidneys to -135ºC was dependent upon these additives. Can you cite superior synthetic ice blockers -- or any ice blockers -- to Supercool-X 1000 and Supercool-Z 1000 ? This achievement was recognized by the editorial staff of the peer-reviewed journal CRYOBIOLOGY, else it's description would not have been accepted for publication: Inhibition of bacterial ice nucleation by polyglycerol polymers. Dr. Wowk's publications and recogniton by his peers is only partially reflected in what is available on the 21CM Website. Wikipedia is loaded with biographies of punk rockers, political hacks and other idiots, and yet you want to block the recognition of this accomplished scientist? --Ben Best 12:43, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Yep, that's the problem. People more readily write about idiots, and hence it is easier to write a wikipedia article about idiots. You claim you are scientist, hence your brain must be sharp, yet you fail to understand what I wrote. The issue is not what Wowk wrote; what missing is what is written about Wowk by others in independent and reputable sources. mikka (t) 07:42, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
You fail to understand the significance of what I said. Acceptance of publications in a peer-reviewed journal is an acknowlegement by other scientists of the work of the scientist published. That is an acknowledgement by deed, rather than by word. However, when other scientists cite the work of the scientist, that is a stronger acknowledgement. In any case, the section below this one is full of writings about others who are independent and reputable sources. You seem to be on a one-man vendetta against Dr. Wowk. Either all of your requirements have been fulfilled, or you are demanding requirements that would result in the deletion of 99% of all of the biographies in Wikipeda. Dr. Wowk's importance is acknowledged by both scientists and non-scientists alike, as the references below should indicate. Even if Dr. Wowk were not a scientist of the highest caliber (and he certainly is) the fact that so many people discuss him, indicates that he is an important person and should be included in Wikipedia. You will also note that the only negative comments about Dr. Wowk on this page are from you. In any case, you write as if you have not looked at the section below. Please examine it. --Ben Best 08:01, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Some references indicating the significance of Brian Wowk[edit]

A Google search for Brian Wowk yields 13,000+ hits, due to both popular and scientific citations. Below are published books and selected articles (excluding scholarly articles, which are too numerous to list) that discuss or cite Wowk:

Wikipedia Articles

Popular Media

He has also been discussed in Genetic Engineering News (September 1, 2001), Popular Mechanics (September, 1998), and the New York Times (circa 1998).

Popular Books

Cryobiology Text

Optics Text (discusses Wowk’s Phased Array Optics]

Nanotechnology Books and Monographs

Medical Physics Texts (Although there are numerous citations, Wowk’s work in medical physics does not have the same encyclopedic significance as his ideas in nanotechnology or large system cryobiology.)

--Ben Best 00:09, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

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