Neuralink, the neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk, has announced that it will soon begin human trials following FDA approval a few months ago. The company is currently recruiting participants for a study called the ‘PRIME Study’, which is expected to last for six years. The focus of the study is on individuals with quadriplegia, a type of paralysis that affects movement from the neck down. However, Neuralink has faced controversy this month due to questions surrounding the deaths of test monkeys involved in their experiments. Despite Musk’s previous claim that no monkey had died as a result of a Neuralink implant, a report from Wired suggests otherwise.
Neuralink test monkeys: Cause of death
The documents, which were already publicly available, were obtained by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). According to an alarming Wired report, up to a dozen of Neuralink’s test monkeys had to be euthanized after suffering health problems including partial paralysis, brain swelling and bloody diarrhea. The report further reveals that the male monkey had to be euthanized in March 2020 after his cranial implant became loose, although it specifically says the implant failure was due to a mechanical problem.
Another subject, named Animal 15, had to be euthanized after the primate began banging its head against the wall for no apparent reason. In another case, a piece of the implant broke off during a surgical procedure, resulting in the primate repeatedly scratching the surgical site. Although the implant was secured during a subsequent procedure, the animal had to be euthanized due to fungal and bacterial infections.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has sent a letter to the SEC alleging that Musk’s statement about the test subjects was false and misleading, and the company’s investors should know the truth. Ryan Merkley, who leads alternatives to animal testing at PCRM, told Wired, “They’re claiming they’re bringing a safe device to market, and that’s why you should invest. And we see his lies as a way to gloss over what happened in these investigative studies.”
That could give the SEC another reason to launch a third probe into Neuralink’s animal testing, according to the report.