Elon Musk‘s neural technology company, Neuralink, is gearing up to begin human trials for its wire implant procedure amid emotionally-driven safety concerns raised by the global online community, especially on Twitter.
Bloomberg cited Ashlee Vance, Musk’s biographer, who says the company is preparing for a significant leap forward. Even before its first human trial, Neuralink is ambitiously planning to conduct brain-computer interface surgeries on 11 individuals within a year and has a target of 22,000 surgeries by 2030.
First Human Volunteer Yet to Step Forward
The search is on for the first person to undergo the surgery. This involves a robotic surgeon cutting open the volunteers’ skulls and inserting thin wires and electrodes into their brains. The technique has been refined through extensive animal testing.
According to Vance, the surgical procedure to remove part of the skull, known as a craniectomy, is expected to take a few hours. Following this, a robot would need roughly 25 minutes to implant Neuralink’s device, which includes an array of approximately 64 thin threads.
This device is intended to fill in for the section of the skull that was taken out. Further detail provided by the biographer highlighted the threads measure nearly one-fourteenth the diameter of a human hair.
FDA’s Human Trial Approval
Earlier this year, Neuralink got FDA approval for human trials of its brain implant device, which Elon Musk describes as a “Fitbit in your skull.” This follows an earlier setback where the FDA had raised safety concerns.
With approval secured, Elon Musk’s company is recruiting trial participants to explore how the device could aid those with severe paralysis due to spinal cord injuries or ALS.
Neuralink to Edging Competition
The company is determined to stay ahead in the competitive field of brain-computer interfaces. With competitors like Synchron already conducting human trials, Elon Musk has emphasised the urgency of accelerating Neuralink’s progress.
Musk candidly expressed concern over the competition, stating, “They are currently kicking our ass,” in reference to Synchron’s second implant procedure. The company successfully implanted its first device in a US patient in July 2022, following a remarkable achievement in December 2021 when a patient in Australia became the first individual to send a tweet using thought alone, courtesy of Synchron’s technology.
Weighing Speed Against Safety
While Elon Musk is known for his rapid advancement in ventures like Tesla and SpaceX, Neuralink is approaching its next steps with measured caution. The need for meticulous progress is clear, especially in such a delicate field, and it is balancing this with its drive towards innovative breakthroughs.
Neuralink remains in the spotlight, promising a future where Musk’s vision of harmonising humans and machines becomes a reality, potentially transforming the landscape of medical technology and beyond.
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