The CEO and chief engineer of SpaceX, Elon Musk, whose company developed brain chip interfaces (Neuralink) that would restore vision to persons born blind and enable disabled patients to move and communicate again, has sought U.S. regulatory approval to begin clinical trials in people.
Musk said on Wednesday that the brain chip interface is one of its first targeted applications in restoring vision.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports that Neuralink has in recent years been conducting tests on animals.
“The first two human applications targeted by the Neuralink device will be in restoring vision and enabling movement of muscles in people who cannot do so. Even if someone has never had vision, ever, like they were born blind, we believe we can still restore vision,” Musk said.
It was gathered that The event was originally planned for October 31 but Musk postponed it just days before, without giving a reason.
“We want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device into a human but we’ve submitted I think most of our paperwork to the FDA and we think probably in about six months we should be able to have our first Neuralink in a human,” Musk said during a much-awaited public update on the device.
Neuralink’s last public presentation, more than a year ago, involved a monkey with a brain chip that played a computer game by thinking alone.
Musk, who also runs electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla , rocket firm SpaceX, and social media platform Twitter, is known for lofty goals such as colonising Mars and saving humanity. His ambitions for Neuralink, which he launched in 2016, are of the same grand scale.
He wants to develop a chip that would allow the brain to control complex electronic devices and eventually allow people with paralysis to regain motor function and treat brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. He also noted his intention of melding the brain with artificial intelligence.
Neuralink, however, is running behind schedule. Musk said in a 2019 presentation he was aiming to receive regulatory approval by the end of 2020. He then said at a conference in late 2021 that he hoped to start human trials this year.
Neuralink has repeatedly missed internal deadlines to gain FDA approval to start human trials, current and former employees have said. Musk approached competitor Synchron earlier this year about a potential investment after he expressed frustration to Neuralink employees about their slow progress, Reuters reported in August.
Synchron crossed a major milestone in July by implanting its device in a patient in the United States for the first time. It received U.S. regulatory clearance for human trials in 2021 and has completed studies in four people in Australia.