Neuralink gets FDA approval to implant chip into second patient

(NewsNation) — Elon Musk’s human tech startup Neuralink has received the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implant a brain chip into a second patient after it proposed to fix a problem that occurred with the first patient.

Earlier this month, Neuralink reported that the first chip implanted into a human’s brain malfunctioned after several threads recording neural activity retracted from the brain. The threads retracted in the weeks following the surgery in late January that placed the Neuralink hardware in 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh’s brain, the company said.

Norland Arbaugh will appear in an exclusive interview on “CUOMO” on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. Find your channel here.

Neuralink plans to fix the problem by implanting some of the device’s ultra-thin wires deeper into the patient’s brain, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the company and a document it had viewed.

The company plans to implant its device into the second patient in June and a total of 10 people this year, the report said, adding that more than 1,000 quadriplegics had signed up for its patient registry.

Controversy over test monkeys dying

Neuralink started recruiting the first volunteers to participate in the clinical trial late last year.

The study uses a robot to surgically insert a brain chip, about the size of a quarter, into the patient that collects data from the brain and converts the patient’s thoughts into commands that a computer can understand.

However, the project has not been without controversy. Neuralink started by testing the device on monkeys, which then led to several primates dying. It sparked protests across the country.

“Whenever you put something in humans, it takes a long time to prove the safety; I think maybe in a year or two it will be approved for general use,” Musk said in one interview.

Musk has described his vision for Neuralink as a “brain-computer interface” with the goal of giving people who have lost the use of their limbs the ability to interact with their surroundings.

Who is the ideal Neuralink brain chip candidate?

Dr. Tom Pitts, a board-certified neurologist, said Tuesday on “NewsNation Live” that the best candidates are those who are “cognitively sound” since they need to perform their tasks correctly.

He advises against considering quadriplegics with Alzheimer’s or brain cancer for this procedure.

“Somebody with Alzheimer’s who is paralyzed may not be able to learn, the brain may be atrophying. You don’t want to give it to somebody who has a concomitant brain condition that can confound your study,” Pitts said.

He added: “If I have, let’s say brain cancer, and you do this, am I not performing well, or is the lead failing because of the cancer?

First patient communicates with friends and family

Arbaugh has shared his experiences with the brain chip since it was first implanted in January.

It’s allowed Arbaugh, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, to move a computer mouse pointer on a screen just by imagining and thinking about it moving.

Since his transplant, Arbaugh has been able to communicate with friends, family, and loved ones and even play games.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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