Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implant company has been given clearance to begin recruiting patients for the first human trial.
The US startup, which wants microchips to be inserted into the human brain has announced that it received approval from an independent review panel and a partner hospital.
Mr Musk claimed that Neuralink chips could help blind people regain their vision.
Initial trials will be focused on helping paralyzed people control devices by using brain signals detected by the Neuralink implants.
The trial is open to people over 22 years old who have lost all use of their limbs. The study will last for six years.
The company will test its R1 Robot which will insert Neuralink’s N1 chip surgically into the brain of the patient and wire it with tiny filaments.
The trial will test a wireless application that can decode the brain signals to control a computer keyboard and cursor.
Neuralink’s “prime” research was an important first step towards creating a “generalised interface for the brain to restore autonomy to people with unmet medical need”.
The company released a previous video of a monk equipped with a Neuralink gadget playing a video game with its mind.
However, has been criticized over claims that its experiments on animals resulted to unnecessary deaths. Reuters reported previously that 1,500 animals, including pigs and sheep, died as a result of Neuralink’s experiments.
Former employees of Neuralink have claimed that the company’s desire for speed led to more animal deaths than necessary.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group that opposes animal tests, claimed Neuralink’s experiments included “animal abuse” and “sloppy science studies”.
US politicians Earl Blumenauer, Adam Schiff and others wrote to the US Department of Agriculture last year to ask for a closer look at Neuralink. The congressmen stated that “serious accusations have been made against Elon Musk’s company Neuralink”.
They said that “These complaints include graphic description of botched tests and unnecessary animal death and suffering, as a result of Mr Musk’s pressure to irresponsibly speed up development.”
Neuralink previously stated that several animals were killed during brain-chip tests as part of their work with an American university.
One surgical complication was reported, as well as a failure of the device and four infections following surgery. The company insists that the experiments were legal.
Musk stated earlier this month that “no monkeys have died due to a Neuralink Implant”. He added that the company selected “terminal monkeys”, which were “closer to death already”.