Precision: the great hope for millions of neurologically ill people?28. June 2023
Precision: the great hope for millions of neurologically ill people?
New York, 6/27/2023
Precision Neuroscience’s neural implant system was recently used in conscious patients in West Virginia and produced what is believed to be the highest-resolution recording of human thoughts.
In the pilot clinical study, Precision’s system was briefly attached to the brains of three patients during neurosurgical tumor removal, and two of the patients were awake to communicate while their brain activity was recorded. Following the success, the company will conduct further human testing and has set a goal of gaining FDA approval for its first device within the next year.
Founded in 2021 to compete with Elon Musk’s Neuralink, Precision Neuroscience aims to help paralyzed patients operate digital devices by decoding their neural signals. Unlike competitors, its brain-computer interface is designed to conform to the brain surface without causing tissue damage.
Precision aims to restore the ability to communicate for patients with degenerative diseases like ALS by enabling them to cursor, type and access social media with their mind. Ultimately, the company wants to offer its treatments to help millions of people with neurological disorders worldwide.
The human cerebral cortex consists of six layers of cells. Precision Neuroscience is building a device that resembles a seventh layer. It’s called Layer 7 Cortical Interface, and it’s a brain implant designed to help patients with paralysis operate digital devices using only neural signals. This means patients with severe degenerative diseases like ALS will once again be able to communicate with loved ones using their minds to move cursors, type and even access social media.
Layer 7 is an electrode array that resembles a piece of duct tape and is thinner than a human hair, allowing it to conform to the brain surface without damaging tissue.
Precision was co-founded by Benjamin Rapoport, who also co-founded Elon Musk’s BCI company Neuralink, and Michael Mager. But while Neuralink’s BCI is designed to be implanted directly into brain tissue, Precision uses a surgical technique that is less invasive.
To implant the Layer 7 array, a surgeon drills a very thin slit in the skull and slides the device in like a letter in a mailbox. Mager, who is also CEO of Precision, said the slit is less than a millimeter thick — so small that patients don’t even have to shave their hair for the procedure.
“I think that’s a huge benefit compared to technologies that require, say, a craniotomy, which removes a significant portion of the skull, which takes a lot of time and has a high risk of infection,” he told CNBC. “I’ve never met anyone who wanted a hole drilled in their skull.”
Because of the nature of the procedure, Precision can easily increase the number of electrodes on the array, which Mager says will eventually allow the device to be used for neurological applications beyond palsy.
The procedure is also reversible if patients decide they no longer want the implant or want newer versions in the future.
“If you think about expanding this to larger patient populations, the risk/reward balance of any procedure is a fundamental consideration for anyone thinking about medical technology,” Mager said. “If your system is either irreversible or potentially harmful upon explant, that just means the greater the commitment you make to implant it.”