Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup, Neuralink, announced on Tuesday that it has obtained approval from an independent review board to initiate recruitment for its inaugural human trial of a brain implant designed for patients with paralysis. The trial is open to individuals dealing with paralysis resulting from cervical spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), though the exact number of participants hasn’t been disclosed. The study is expected to span approximately six years.
Neuralink plans to employ a robotic system for the surgical implantation of a brain-computer interface (BCI) in the area of the brain responsible for controlling movement intentions. Initially, the objective is to empower individuals to operate a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts.
Previously, the company had sought approval to implant its device in ten patients, but negotiations with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) led to a lower number of approved patients due to safety concerns, though the precise figure remains undisclosed.
Elon Musk envisions Neuralink playing a pivotal role in facilitating rapid surgical placements of its chip devices to address conditions such as obesity, autism, depression, and schizophrenia.
In May, Neuralink announced receiving FDA clearance for its first-ever human clinical trial, even as it faced federal scrutiny regarding its handling of animal testing. However, even if the BCI device proves to be safe for human use, experts suggest that obtaining commercial clearance could still take over a decade for the startup.