Elon Musk’s Neuralink Gets Green Light To Begin Human Trials

In a new development, Elon Musk‘s brain-implant startup, Neuralink, has obtained approval from an independent review board to start recruiting for its first human trial.

The venture aims to begin a six-year study involving people with paralysis, who will serve as test subjects for an experimental device that could revolutionise the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).


A Visionary, But Polarising, Pursuit


Neuralink, headed up by billionaire Elon Musk, has captured the imagination of the public and the scrutiny of experts. The company is among a number of organisations dedicated to the development of BCIs, technology capable of harnessing and interpreting brain signals.

However, Musk’s vision of creating an all-encompassing brain-computer interface to empower humans against artificial intelligence has garnered both scepticism and ethical concerns from neuroscientists and various specialists.


Navigating Regulations


Neuralink faced a significant hurdle last year when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied their request for human trials.

However, in a pivotal turn of events, the FDA granted Neuralink an investigational device exemption (IDE) in May, permitting the use of their device for clinical studies. Details surrounding the resolution of the FDA’s initial concerns remain undisclosed.



Targeting Paralysis


Neuralink’s latest announcement emphasises their search for individuals with quadriplegia stemming from vertical spinal cord injuries or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

These prospective participants will undergo a surgical procedure where a BCI, using a proprietary robot, will be implanted into the brain region responsible for controlling movement. The primary objective is to enable patients to manipulate a computer cursor or keyboard solely through the power of their thoughts. The trial will be primarily focused on assessing the safety and functionality of this ground-breaking technology, as outlined in a company statement.


A Controversial Path: Animal Testing Under Scrutiny


Neuralink’s quest for innovation has not been without controversy. Recent reports have placed their animal testing procedures under the microscope. Former employees have come forward, labelling these experiments as “hack jobs.”

One disturbing instance involved an incorrect implantation of the device in pigs, ultimately leading to their euthanasia. The fallout from these allegations has triggered multiple investigations, including inquiries by the Department of Agriculture into allegations of animal abuse and the Department of Transportation over the mishandling of biohazardous materials.


Unanswered Questions Loom


As of now, Neuralink has not provided specific details about the timing or location of the impending human trial, nor have they disclosed the number of participants involved.

If the experimental device proves to be safe and effective for human use, it could still be many years before it receives clearance for broader patient usage beyond the confines of the trial. The path ahead is lined with challenges, but Neuralink remains strong in its pursuit of advancing the frontier of neuroscience and human-machine interaction.