Neuralink Rival Synchron Announces Enrollment of First US Patients for Brain Computer Trial

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Brain Control Interfaces (BCI) are seen as a potential huge market in the future, not only to help those suffering from paralysis but possibly as an augmentative device for healthy individuals as well.
Synchron Inc just enrolled its first patient in the US for a clinical trial of its BCI device called Stentrode, which is intended to help people suffering from paralysis and ultimately prove effective regardless of the cause of the condition.
But Synchron, as opposed to Elon Musk’s far more funded Neuralink, is focused entirely on helping those with paralysis for now. Despite the relatively modest funding level of $70 million in total, Synchron is ahead of Neuralink, which raised $205 million in the last year alone and is still searching for a trial director for its brain implanted device.
The study will take place in New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will involve approximately six patients. Synchron has already proven the effectiveness of its device in trials in Australia but this will mark its first trial of permanently implanting a device in a patient in the US.
Four patients have had Stentrode implanted in them in Australia, and the company says they are able to control digital devices to send email and text messages, shop online, manage finances and participate in telemedicine while only using their thoughts.
The company describes the device as “brain bluetooth.”
Compared to the Neuralink device, surgery for the Stentrode implant is said to be far less intrusive. Stentrode is implanted in a blood vessel near the user’s throat where it travels up to the brain and lines the brain with electrodes and sensors. The implant then listens for activity in the brain and sends the waves to a device in the user’s chest. All in all, the procedure can be completed in two hours, according to the company.
As for the Neuralink device, it’s implanted directly in the user’s skull, potentially leading to long term inflammation of the patient’s brain.
Currently, the device is only designed to focus on the part of the brain that deals with motor skills, but the plan is to eventually map the entire brain.
“Synchron’s north star is to achieve whole-brain data transfer,” said CEO Thomas Oxley in a press release announcing the initial approval of the trial earlier this year. “The blood vessels provide surgery-free access to all regions of the brain, and at scale. Our first target is the motor cortex for treatment of paralysis, which represents a large unmet need for millions of people across the world.”
In addition to helping individuals suffering from paralysis gain more independence, the Synchron device may also be used to repair damaged parts of the brain and allow scientists to monitor the functional integrity of brain structures.
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