Neuralink, the brain-chip startup founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has announced that it has obtained approval from an independent review board to initiate recruitment for its groundbreaking human trial involving a brain implant designed for paralysis patients.

The trial, which is expected to span approximately six years, is open to individuals with paralysis resulting from cervical spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). While the company has not disclosed the precise number of participants involved, it has outlined its mission to enable individuals to control computer cursors or keyboards solely through the power of their thoughts.

Neuralink’s approach involves the use of a robot to surgically implant a brain-computer interface (BCI) device into a specific region of the brain responsible for the intention to move. Previously, the company had aimed to secure approval for implanting its device in ten patients. However, discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) led to a lower, undisclosed number of approved participants due to safety concerns raised by the agency, as reported by current and former employees.

Elon Musk envisions a vast scope for Neuralink, anticipating that the technology will enable swift surgical insertions of chip devices to address a range of conditions, including obesity, autism, depression, and schizophrenia.

Neuralink had already received clearance from the FDA for its first-in-human clinical trial in May, even as it was under federal scrutiny for its approach to animal testing. However, experts caution that, even if the BCI device proves to be safe for human use, obtaining commercial use clearance could potentially take more than a decade for the startup.

By Impact Lab