In step forward for Elon Musk’s neural lace and transhumanists everywhere, a new paper published this month by researchers at Harvard University reports on the successful implantation of an electronic neuromorphic mesh in the brains of mice without triggering an immune response.
Neuroprostheses show promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and for the creation of brain-machine interfaces such as the neural lace, but a major stumbling block for researchers has been the propensity of these implants to induce an immune response, inflammation and scaring in the brain, severely limiting their potential use.
The Harvard team’s new neuromorphic mesh is delivered to specific brain regions via syringe injection and overcomes the problem of immune response in the brain. Their observations of the brain’s of the injected mice showed little to no immune response and they found the neuromorphic mesh had merged with the brain tissue.
The neuromorphic mesh’s unique ultraflexible nature and a layer of biocompatible polyimide polymer that covers all the metal interconnects helps to prevent any immune response.
Elon Musk discusses his concept of and reasons for a neural lace:
The lack of immune response may make the permanent implantation of the neuromorphic mesh a possibility and the researchers state in their paper that the mesh may never require removal, but if it does, removal is fairly easy and straightforward task.
The researchers write in the paper that their neuromorphic mesh could aid fundamental neuroscience research and open up a range of possibilities for the recording and modulating of brain activity as their neuromorphic mesh can interface and record neural voltage changes in all regions of the brain and from the level of single neuron.
Speaking to Phys.org, Prof. Charles Lieber says the team’s “… next steps include implantations of mesh electronics into tissues and organs other than the brain—for example, in the eye for in vivo recording of single retinal ganglion cells, in the spinal cord, in the muscle for studying signal propagation at the neuromuscular junction, and so on.”
We’re also beginning studies exploiting the unprecedented stability and absence of chronic immune response of the mesh electronics in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease models, and are working on implantation of mesh electronics in non-human primates subjects and human patients.”
Elon Musk founded Neuralink last year to accelerate the progress of brain-machine interfaces. Musk’s main motivation for the project has been his concerns about artificial intelligence outstripping human control.
Musk sees interfacing our brains with the artificial intelligence to be one way of ensuring human cognitive abilities rise with along with artificial intelligence, giving humanity a greater chance of keeping it under human control and mitigating its risks. Check out Tim Urban’s great write-up about Elon Musk’s Neuralink company and mission.