Resuscitation of Hamsters after Supercooling

Robert Karl Stonjek in the discussion on Facebook

has mentioned:

On the suspension of life, it was James Lovelock and his colleagues in the 1950s that were freezing hamsters and then bringing them back to life.”

Also he has quoted ‘Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist’ by James Lovelock, P.108-9 (hardcover version):

“Media interest intensified when we moved on from freezing blood and spermatozoa to freezing whole animals. Audrey Smith reduced to …practice a technique pioneered by the Yugoslav biologist, Andjus. She cooled and froze hamsters and then reanimated them from the frozen state. The animals were truly frozen and all their organs transfixed with ice crystals, yet once we had perfected the re-warming technique, they returned to normal unharmed.

The method Andjus first used to reanimate small animals from just above the freezing point was to apply a piece of hot metal to the animal’s chest above its heart. This procedure warmed the heart and started it beating while the rest of the animal was still cold. If cold or frozen animals are warmed from the outside by placing them in a warm bath they never recover. Andjus and Audrey Smith both thought that this was because the skin, when warmed, consumed the oxygen remaining in the blood, and when later the heart started it drew in anoxic blood and so failed. Audrey drew on Andjus’s experience and warmed her frozen hamsters by applying a teaspoon heated in the flame of a Bunsen burner to their chests. This technique worked with some of the frozen animals, but at the cost of badly burned chests. The experimental biologists at Mill Hill were tough and unsentimental about animal suffering. They were not consciously cruel and did try to avoid suffering so long as it did not interfere with the scientific objective of their experiments. This was, I think, the usual attitude of almost all scientists who used animals in the 1950s. I had to be there to monitor the physics and chemistry of the animal as it went through the freezing and re-warming. I soon found that I was made of softer stuff and was repelled by what I thought were cruel experiments.

It was not long before I decided to make a radio frequency diathermy apparatus with which to warm the animals’ hearts from the inside without burning the skin of their chests.”

I got interested and made search in Internet. First there is a list of papers by James Lovelock on cryobiology where he has some papers about hamsters indeed.

For example:

Smith, A.U., Lovelock, J.E. and Parkes, A.S. 1954. Resuscitation of hamsters after supercooling or partial crystallization at body temperatures below 0 C. Nature, 173, 1136.

Lovelock, J.E. and Smith, A.U. 1956. Studies on golden hamsters during cooling to and rewarming from body temperatures below 0 C. Proc. Roy. Soc., 145, 427.

A search for comments on this from recent works has produced the next result:

Roger Gosden, Cryopreservation: a cold look at technology for fertility preservation, Fertility and Sterility, Volume 96, Issue 2, August 2011, Pages 264-268.

In studies reminiscent of cryonics (which strangely aims to resurrect frozen corpses), the Parkes group cooled hamsters (not true hibernators) to subzero temperatures until their skin felt ‘‘wood-like’’ (6). Surprisingly, some of the animals survived, but only if their core remained unfrozen, bringing to mind an expression coined by Shakespeare for Cardinal Wolsey’s soliloquy in Henry the Eighth: ‘‘The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.’’