Blackrock Neurotech: The Biotech Firm Leading the Way in Brain Implant Technology
Blackrock Neurotech is a biotech firm headquartered in Salt Lake City that has implanted brain chips in over 50 individuals, already achieving what Elon Musk’s Neuralink is still seeking FDA approval to begin testing on humans. Blackrock’s technology is aimed at curing physical disability, blindness, deafness, and depression through the use of implanted brain chips.
The NeuroPort Array chip consists of almost 100 microneedles that are attached to the brain and read electrical signals generated by a person’s thoughts. The company has implanted more than three dozen people with the device since it was first implanted in a human in 2004. The company leaders hope to bring the device to market soon, having announced in 2021 that they aimed for the next year.
Blackrock’s implanted microchip has 96 arrays, which are tiny needle-shaped brain chips capable of reading and stimulating electrical impulses. Multiple devices can be implanted in the same person’s brain, and the technology enables the wearer to control prostheses and computer equipment by decoding the electrical impulses produced by their thoughts.
The potential uses of this technology are vast, including the ability to assist with drawingusing a robotic arm, computer programming, and controlling a wheelchair or prosthetic limb. Blackrock is now seeking FDA approval for devices designed for use outside of the lab, such as those used by people with paralysis at home.
“We are pursuing regulatory clearance of the world’s first-ever BCI built particularly for at-home use: MoveAgain,” said Marcus Gerhardt, co-founder of Blackrock. “This medical technology intends to improve patients with paralysis’ freedom and movement, and, ultimately, quality of life.”
Gerhardt expects that BCIs will become as common in paralyzed patients as pacemakers are in individuals with heart problems. “Once home-use BCIs are accessible, they’ll enable individuals to make new lifestyles that may have seemed unachievable following their handicap; we expect to see people return to work, gain greater independence, and connect with the world in powerful new ways,” he says.
The company is already working on brain-computer connections that will help restore hearing and vision. “As technology advances, we’ll see BCIs with indications for memory and mental health problems like anxiety and depression,” said Gerhardt.
Blackrock’s approach to BCI technology offers incredible potential for medical treatment and could help treat everything from memory loss to PTSD and depression. Gerhardt believes that in the near future, BCI technology might be used to treat neuronal activity in brain areas involved in mood control, as well as recover lost memories.
“It’s feasible that BCI technology may also record and reproduce the patterns linked with specific memories,” he said.
However, the device does have some drawbacks. The arrays on the implant slowly break down over time, causing its signal quality to degrade after around two years. The device will usually need to be removed after around five years, requiring another surgery to take it out and then replace it.
Blackrock initially implanted a BCI in 2004 but has typically avoided public scrutiny due to worries about public perception of the devices. “As a firm, we’ve also taken a lot more active role in coming out from behind the curtain and assisting excited patients in telling their experiences,” Gerhardt said.
Despite the limitations of the technology, Blackrock’s approach to BCI implants represents a significant breakthrough in the field. With continued innovation and development, BCI technology could help revolutionize the medical industry and improve the lives of countless people suffering from a range of disabilities and conditions.
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