TECH NEWS – Elon Musk has denied claims that his Neuralink monkey test subjects died as a result of brain implants. But Wired has pointed to some documents that suggest otherwise… (WARNING! The article contains disturbing information. It is recommended reading only for those with strong nerves.)
Elon Musk said earlier this month that “no monkeys have died as a result of the Neuralink implant”. However, an alarming new report from Wired seems to contradict Musk’s claim. Public documents obtained by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and seen by Wired reveal that Neuralink’s macaque subjects were euthanized after various complications, including “bloody diarrhoea, partial paralysis and cerebral oedema”.
Wired reports that the documents show that a male monkey was euthanized in March 2020 “after his cranial implant had become loose” and that an autopsy revealed that “the implant failure was purely mechanical and not aggravated by infection”.
On Tuesday, Neuralink announced that it would soon start trials in people with quadriplegia.
PCRM is a non-profit organization that campaigns against the use of live animals in experiments. Recently, they sued UC Davis to obtain documents from the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), the school’s bioresearch facility. This is where the experiments took place. They have now been published on its website and cited in letters sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday accusing Musk of securities fraud. Referring to the alleged $280 million raised by Neuralink from investors to create the brain-computer interface. A UC Davis spokesperson declined to comment to Wired.
Could Elon Musk’s Neuralink have broken every rule in the book?!
Wired notes that a December 2019 experiment outlined in one of the documents says that one of the monkeys had to be put down after a piece of Neuralink’s brain implant broke off during surgery. This led to an infection. Another of the macaques mentioned – known as Animal 15 – “began to press its head against the floor for no apparent reason” days after the implant was placed. His condition only deteriorated from there:
“Animal 15 began to lose coordination, and staff observed that she would shake uncontrollably when she saw lab workers. Her condition deteriorated for months until the staff finally euthanized her. A necropsy report indicates that she had bleeding in her brain and that the Neuralink implants left parts of her cerebral cortex ‘focally tattered’.”
In addition to claiming that no monkeys have died as a result of the Neuralink implant, Musk said that the startup has chosen “terminal monkeys (near death)” as test subjects to “minimize the risk to healthy monkeys”.
However, Wired quotes an anonymous former employee as saying this is untrue.
They showed a transcript of Elon Musk’s comments on X that Neuralink’s animal test subjects were “already close to death”. A former Neuralink employee tells Wired that the claim is “ridiculous” if not outright “fiction”. “We had these monkeys for about a year before we did any surgery,” they say. The former employee, who has requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, claims the programme required up to a year of behavioural training. This time frame excluded subjects who were already close to death.
Last year, the PCRM filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), alleging that Neuralink’s practices violate the Animal Welfare Act. Neuralink has also been under investigation by the US Department of Transportation for allegedly illegally transporting contaminated devices removed from monkey brains.