For months now, Elon Musk has been mired in controversy over his acquisition of Twitter. But this is not the only legal trouble on the horizon for the richest man in the world. Musk also operates a medical device company known as Neuralink, which has sought to produce a brain implant. As part of the development process, Neuralink has conducted research on animals with the assistance of the lab at the University of California in Davis. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it will investigate Neuralink for violating the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law prohibiting certain forms of animal abuse. The investigation arose from a complaint by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine almost a year ago.
News agency Reuters reported that about 1,500 animals have died during research conducted by Neuralink over the last several years. The animals range from rodents to larger mammals like pigs and sheep, as well as some primates. The use of animals to conduct experiments is not illegal or even unusual, and some animal deaths are often inevitable. However, human errors in animal surgeries performed as part of Neuralink research allegedly resulted in more animal deaths than should have been expected. Some animals reportedly received implants in the wrong place or the wrong size, for example, which led to their deaths by euthanasia.
Reports suggest that errors and other problems with the Neuralink research may have arisen from Musk’s eagerness to start conducting human trials of the brain implant as soon as possible. Shortly before the animal abuse allegations arose, he announced that human trials would start within six months. This investigation might disrupt that timeline as federal authorities scrutinize the company more closely.
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