Neuralink, the brain-chip firm founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has announced that it has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to proceed with its first human tests. The company aims to restore vision and mobility by connecting brains with computers through its microchips.
Although Neuralink currently has no immediate plans to recruit participants, this development marks a significant milestone. Previous attempts by Musk to initiate tests had been unsuccessful. A Reuters report from March, citing former and current employees, stated that a previous bid by Neuralink for FDA approval had been rejected due to safety concerns.
Neuralink’s microchips, which have been successfully tested in monkeys, are designed to interpret brain signals and transmit information to external devices via Bluetooth. The company's ultimate goal is to address conditions like paralysis and blindness, as well as assist individuals with disabilities in utilizing computers and mobile technology. Musk has also suggested that this technology could help alleviate concerns about humans being displaced by artificial intelligence.
Neuralink announced the FDA approval on Twitter, referring to it as an “important first step” toward benefiting numerous individuals through their innovative technology. The company praised its team’s collaboration with the FDA and promised to provide more details soon regarding the recruitment of trial participants.
Neuralink emphasizes the importance of safety, accessibility, and reliability during the engineering process on its website. However, experts caution that extensive testing will be necessary to overcome technical and ethical challenges before the brain implants can become widely available.
Since its establishment in 2016, Neuralink has faced setbacks and delays in executing its ambitious plans. Initially, the company aimed to begin implanting chips in human brains in 2020, a target set in the previous year. Later, Neuralink revised its timeline to start in 2022. In December of the preceding year, the company faced allegations of animal welfare violations, which led to an investigation. Neuralink denied these claims.
The FDA's approval for human tests by Neuralink follows recent news of a similar breakthrough by Swiss researchers in the field of brain implants. A paralyzed man from the Netherlands achieved the ability to walk simply by thinking about it, thanks to a wireless system of implants that transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet.