Neuralink is looking for a partner to conduct human trials for brain implants and has approached a leading neurological treatment centre.
Elon Musk‘s brain implant company Neuralink is reportedly searching for a human trials partner and is in talks with several medical centers. Among these is the Arizona-based neurological disease treatment and research organization Barrow Neurological Institute. According to inside sources, Neuralink views Barrow Neurological Institute, one of the US’ biggest neurosurgery centers, as a potential clinical trials partner. Neuralink hopes to test its devices on humans through this potential partnership once regulators approve the experiment.
As a neurotechnology company developing implantable brain-computer interfaces, Neuralink seeks to remedy neurologically intractable conditions. The Fremont, California-based company has been developing brain implants since 2016 to cure ailments such as paralysis and blindness.
Barrow’s Center for Neuromodulation and Neurosurgery Residency Program director Francisco Ponce did not comment on the Neuralink human trials. Instead, Ponce pointed out that Barrow was in a prime position to conduct implant research due to its antecedents. The neurological disease treatment center also implants FDA-approved devices to alleviate Parkinson’s tremors. Barrow’s deep brain stimulation devices reportedly differ from Neuralink’s and are implanted in more than 175,000 patients.
Neuralink Human Trials Several Months in the Making
Last November, Musk explained that Neuralink aimed for human trials in six months to implant chips in human brains. This revolutionary agenda hit a stumbling block in early 2022. On March 2nd last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected Neuralink’s application to begin human trials. At the time, the federal agency cited numerous safety issues the neurotechnology company supposedly failed to address. Issues raised include the brain chip’s lithium battery and the implant’s tiny wires potentially migrating to other brain sections. In addition, the FDA questioned whether anyone could remove the device without damaging brain tissue.
A Reuters report stated that Neuralink has since worked on addressing the red flags raised by the FDA. However, it remains unclear if and when the Musk-founded brain implant company will receive approval for human trials.
Neuralink also faces a probe from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) over claims it illegally transported hazardous pathogens. This USDA investigation came at the request of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and a federal prosecutor.
Animal Welfare Violations
The USDA is also investigating alleged animal welfare violations following staff complaints that Neuralink is rushing its animal testing. Sources familiar with the investigation say the brain implant company’s testing practices are causing needless animal suffering and death. So far, Neuralink has reportedly killed around 1,500 animals, including over 280 monkeys, pigs, and sheep.
Last December, a former company employee described Neuralink’s usage of animals for its experiments as a sacrifice. The ex-employee further referenced a lone case involving a monkey that succumbed to errors made during surgery. According to accounts, the surgical team placed a sealant on the surgical holes, which caused the primate’s brain to swell and hemorrhage.
The ex-employee, who worked as a necropsy technician, admitted there was no reason for the team to use the sealant.
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