A two-year-old girl from Thailand who died of brain cancer has become the youngest person in the world to be cryonically preserved in the hope that one day there will be a cure for her cancer and she could be brought back to life.
Matheryn Noavaratpong was diagnosed with an 11cm tumor in her left brain in 2014 after she failed to wake up on the morning of April 19, online magazine Motherboard reported. She suffered from ependymoblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer that occurs in very young children.
Doctors removed half the tumour and told her parents, who are both scientists, that she would probably never wake up from her coma. They advised the family to take her off life support, said the report.
But Matheryn defied the odds and woke up from her coma within a week.
“Einz woke up... she responded to stimulation, and surprised everyone. Einz represents the worth of life,” her father Dr Sahatorn Naovaratpong was quoted as saying.
“We decided to fight against this cancer,” he said. “We may not beat it, but her life can lead to a further step of mankind to overcome cancer in the future.”
Over the next year, Matheryn received 12 brain surgeries, 20 chemotherapy treatments and 20 radiation therapy sessions. She suffered radiation burns and lost 80 per cent of the left side of her brain, essentially paralysing the right side of her body. Her vision was also affected, said the report.
At one point, she managed to stand up again and could see with both eyes, and could even move some parts of the right side of her body.
"Einz was able to stand up on her feet again and could see with both eyes, as if she had survived from brain cancer. Couldn't help wishing she could be back to her normal childhood even with only a single right brain,” Motherboard quoted her father as saying.
But in November 2014, the cancer spread across Matheryn's brain, and finally paralysed her face and muscles.
"We realised it was the end," Dr Sahatorn said. "We had to prepare to say goodbye."
Matheryn eventually succumbed to her disease in January.
Her family contacted the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in the United States which deals in cryonics - the low temperature preservation of humans and animals - and preparations were made to preserve her body.
Matheryn's brain was extracted and preserved in a stainless steel vacuum container filled with liquid nitrogen. Her body is being held in cryofreeze until a cure can be found, according to Motherboard.
"They're hoping that by preserving the tissue cells of this particular cancer, they can come up with a better treatment plan, and may be even eventually cure it. If you look at the global picture of what they're trying to accomplish, it's very altruistic," the report quoted Aaron Drake, medical response director at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, as saying.
Matheryn's body now lies in Arizona, waiting for the day when science can not only find a new method of fighting her cancer, but also revive her from her deep sleep.