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FACT CHECK: Human trial for Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implants yet to start


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FACT CHECK: Human trial for Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implants yet to start
According to Reuters, the medical device company is expected to start its first human trial ‘later this year’

Claim: Elon Musk’s brain implant company Neuralink has already begun human trials for its brain implants.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a June 25 YouTube video that has 17,000 views, 1,100 likes, and 122 comments as of writing. 

The title of the video states: “Nagsisimula na ang Bagong Brain Implant sa Human Trial – Neuralink Update!” (New brain implant begins human trial – Neuralink update!)

The video was posted by the channel Sa Iyong Araw, which has been fact checked numerous times by Rappler before, most recently for claiming that the Yellowstone volcano is due for an eruption soon

The bottom line: The neurotechnology company Neuralink has not yet started human trials. Rappler debunked a similar claim that circulated on Facebook on June 12.

On June 16, Reuters reported that Musk expects Neuralink to start its first brain implantations in humans “later this year.” Musk made the announcement at the 2023 Viva Technology conference in Paris, France.

Last month, Neuralink said it had received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch their first in-human clinical study. In the same post, the company said that recruitment for the human trial was not yet open and that more information would be announced soon.

The US FDA said that it had cleared Neuralink to “use its brain implant and surgical robot for trials on patients” but gave no further details. This comes after the agency previously rejected Neuralink’s application for human trials, citing safety concerns.

What Neuralink does: Founded in 2016, Neuralink is developing a brain computer interface that can be implanted within the skull. The company’s website describes the implant as “fully implantable, cosmetically invisible, and designed to let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go.” 

The medical device company envisions creating a generalized brain interface to “restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs.” Musk has previously said that brain implants could cure a range of conditions including obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia. The implants also aim to “eventually help disabled patients to move and communicate again, and also restore vision,” according to a 2022 Factbox by Reuters.

Commercial use: Experts have said that it could take years before the brain implants can be cleared for commercial use. Kip Ludwig, former program director for neural engineering at the US National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that he expected Neuralink to take at least 10 more years to secure commercial clearance. 

As of writing, there have been no updates from Neuralink or Musk specifying a start date for the human trials. Katarina Ruflo/Rappler.com

Katarina Ruflo is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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