Neuralink, the brain implant venture led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, is taking a significant stride towards turning science fiction into reality by launching clinical trials.
In a blog post, the company announced its recruitment of patients suffering from quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for the trial.
The initial goal of the clinical trial is to empower participants with the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts, according to the company’s statement. This announcement marks a highly anticipated moment in the realm of brain implants, sparking substantial interest and discussion.
While Elon Musk has discussed ambitious objectives for Neuralink, including language learning and mental communication, he has consistently stated that the startup’s inaugural project would focus on alleviating brain injuries.
Several other companies have ventured into similar technologies, achieving success in implanting devices within the human brain. Synchron Inc., for instance, accomplished its feat by using blood vessels instead of brain surgery to implant the device. The procedure involves a surgical incision in the neck’s base, followed by the maneuvering of the implant to reach its intended location in the brain.
Neuralink received early approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May this year, securing an investigational device exemption. This exemption permits medical device manufacturers to proceed with human trials. The company also mentioned that it obtained approval from the hospital where the initial surgeries will take place, though the hospital’s name remains undisclosed.
Despite this significant milestone, the path ahead is lengthy and involves multiple stages of trials before achieving widespread deployment. Victor Krauthamer, a professor at George Washington University and former director of the division of Biomedical Physics at the FDA, cautioned that the process typically takes several years.