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A brain-computer startup beat Elon Musk's Neuralink to implanting its first device in a US patient

elon musk
Elon Musk on March 9.Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Synchron implanted its first device into a US patient on July 6 in New York.

  • The chip is designed to allow patients with severe paralysis to communicate using their thoughts.

  • Elon Musk's Neuralink has a similar mission, but has yet to receive FDA approval.

Synchron, a brain-computer interface startup, reportedly implanted its first device in a US patient earlier this month — overtaking Elon Musk's Neuralink for the third time.

The startup implanted a 1.5-inch device into the brain of an ALS patient at Mount Sinai West medical center in New York on July 6, Bloomberg first reported. A spokesperson from Synchron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The purpose of the device is to allow the patient to communicate — even after they have lost the ability to move — by using their thoughts to send emails and texts. Bloomberg reported that Synchron has already implanted the device in four patients in Australia who have been able to use the brain implant to send messages on WhatsApp and shop online.

Last year, the Australia-based startup received permission from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin human trials on six US patients who have been severly paralyzed. In 2019, the company implanted its device into its first human patient in Melbourne, Australia.

Meanwhile, Neuralink has yet to receive FDA approval, though Musk has predicted the could company could begin human trials as early as 2020. Most recently, he said in 2021 that the company planned to start implanting its computer chip in humans by 2022. The announcement came after the billionaire and cofounder shared a video of a monkey playing a video game using only its mind via a Neuralink brain chip.

Earlier this year, the cofounder and former president of Neuralink, Max Hodak, revealed he'd invested in Synchron after leaving Musk's startup.

Synchon and Neuralink's implants have similar immediate applications. They are both designed to translate human thoughts into computer commands and could help patients with neurological diseases like Parkinson's or ALS.

However, Musk's goals for Neuralink appear to be slightly more ambitious. In the past, Musk has claimed the brain-machine interface could give people telepathic powers and make humans symbiotic with artificial intelligence, referring to the device as "a Fitbit in your skull."

Neuralink and Synchron's products have several key differences: namely, size and installation. The Australian startup's product can be inserted into a human skull without cutting into it using a catheter that feeds the device through the jugular vein into a blood vessel in the brain. The process requires two separate surgeries.

In contrast, Neuralink plans to make a much smaller and more powerful device that would require a portion of the individual's skull to be removed and would be performed using a robot.

Read more about the startup on Bloomberg's website.

Read the original article on Business Insider