SYNCHRON has launched a clinical trial that will implant brain chips in humans in the United States.
The Stentrode brain implant – about the size of a paper clip – will let the wearer control a computer using just their thoughts.
It is reportedly being tested on six patients with severe paralysis at the Mountain Sinai Hospital in New York and at the University Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
Stentrode will let patients use digital devices with their brains, allowing them to perform daily tasks such as texting and online shopping.
And while the device has already been tested on Australian subjects, this is the first time it is being tried out in the United States.
The trial, dubbed Command, is being performed under the watchful eye of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The approval of this [clinical trial] reflects years of safety testing performed in conjunction with FDA,” Dr. Thomas Oxley, CEO of Synchron, said in a statement.
“We have worked together to pave a pathway forward, towards the first commercial approval for a permanently implanted [brain computer interface] for the treatment of paralysis.”
Oxley added that Command is a “major milestone” for the company which hopes to bring its product to the ~5 million people living with paralysis in the US.
The American Journal of Public Health has concluded that stroke is the leading cause of paralysis, followed by spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
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How does it work?
Synchron’s brain-computer interface (BCI) device is implanted into the motor cortex of the brain through the jugular vein.
The procedure is minimally invasive and takes about two hours.
Once implanted, it works by recording and translating neural activity into a standardized digital language.
These signals then transmit from the brain directly to a unit implanted in the chest along a wire.
Synchron explains: “This [chest] unit is programmed to pick up brain signals continuously and when connected to an external receiver can send them to a computer.”
The race is on…
The news of Synchron’s trial comes months after Elon Musk’s Neuralink was preparing to launch human clinical trials for its brain chip implant.
Musk, who co-founded Neuralink in 2016, has stated in the past that the technology “will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.”
The billionaire CEO also promised that later versions of the brain chips “will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in the body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.”
The Silicon Valley company has already successfully implanted artificial intelligence (AI) microchips in the brains of a macaque and a pig.
“I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury,” Musk said at the last Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit.
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“Neuralink’s working well in monkeys, and we’re actually doing just a lot of testing and just confirming that it’s very safe and reliable and the Neuralink device can be removed safely,” he added.
He added that Neuralink hopes to implant the device into human brains sometime in 2022.