Neuralink is reaching a crucial milestone: the company is finally moving into human trials and is looking for people to try its brain implant.
The FDA ( Food & Drug Administration ) finally gave Neuralink the green light. After several relatively successful animal trials, the company can now test its brain implant on humans . It was about time: these tests were postponed after postponement and Neuralink was losing ground against its competitors. For the neurotechnology company, all that remains is to find its guinea pigs.
In a press release, Neuralink officially opens recruitment for this new essential stage in the company’s development. For years, she has been working on brain implants with direct neural interfaces. The objective? Heal the incurable. According to Elon Musk, Neuralink could transform the lives of quadriplegics, blind people and other people with disabilities. Thanks to these brain implants, they would have the ability to control devices with their thoughts. A promise that is enough to make several pairs of eyes shine.
Elon Musk therefore addresses people who are quadriplegic due to spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis. The human brain trials will be conducted as part of the PRIME ( Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface ) study. The latter is part of a special FDA program, which allows it to benefit from special exemptions. These human tests aim to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of these implants which could be revolutionary.
A crucial step for Neuralink
During the PRIME study, Neuralink will use an R1 surgical robot to place the thousands of extremely thin and flexible wires of the N1 brain implant. When the invisible chip is installed, it will record and transmit brain signals to an application. The latter will take care of deciphering the intention of movement. And the magic will work. The human-machine interface is expected to be a bridge between the human mind and machines and could significantly simplify the lives of many people.
Neuralink’s animal trials have been rather positive on paper. But in fact, the company is singled out for animal abuse. A large majority of the monkeys used died following these brain implant tests . A few weeks ago, Elon Musk maintained that these monkeys were already seriously ill, even terminally ill, and that their deaths had no connection with Neuralink. However, the start-up admitted its fault in December 2022.
But animal abuse was not the only problem faced by Neuralink. Indeed, the FDA had expressed doubts regarding other points. The regulator feared the migration of microwires to other areas of the brain, which would obviously be disastrous for many reasons. The use of a lithium battery was also a concern. Finally, the FDA questioned the possibility of removing the implant without damaging the brain tissue.
Despite these doubts , Neuralink seems to have succeeded in reassuring the entity which authorizes the marketing of drugs in the United States. There has to be a reason. Therefore, trials on the human brain are awaited around the corner. Despite a positive result at the end of these, the ethics of the Neuralink project are regularly called into question. A day will come when, perhaps, the company will want to simplify the lives of healthy people. And that’s another kettle of fish.