Google Is Making Magnetic Nanoparticles That Will Search For Disease Inside Your Body
Canadian Awareness Network
Nov 3, 2014
by JILLIAN D’ONFRO OCT. 28, 2014, 1:27 PM
Google is in the early stages of creating tiny, magnetic nanoparticles that will be able to search the human body for cancer and other diseases, The Wall Street Journal’s Alistair Barr and Ron Winslow report.
Google’s goal is “an early heads-up” on disease to ultimately facilitate more effective treatment by making medicine proactive instead of reactive.
Google’s particles will be less than 1/000 the width of a red blood cell and will attach themselves to specific cells, proteins, and other molecules inside the body, depending on what they’re “decorated” with. For example, Google could coat its nanoparticles with a specific antibody that would recognize and attach to a protein on the surface of a tumor cell.
Google is also working on a small wearable device that would attract and count the particles. In that way, the system would be used for testing and monitoring health: You could be alerted through the wearable if a lot of the particles were attaching to tumor cells. Google admits, however, that it still needs to better understand what constitutes as a healthy level of disease-carrying molecules in the blood and what would be a cause for a concern (Google’s “Baseline Study” is already trying to define what a healthy human looks like). The idea is that people would be constantly monitoring their bodies, so they wouldn’t wait until they felt physically sick to go to the doctor.
Google would likely let people consume its nanoparticles through a pill, but is reportedly at least five to seven years away from a product that would be approved by doctors.
“Every test you ever go to the doctor for will be done through this system,” Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences team at Google X and the man leading the project, said at The Wall Street Journal’s “WSJD Live” conference. “That’s our dream.”
Conrad told The Wall Street Journal that Google would not collect or store any medical data itself, but would license the technology out.
“We’re going to be inventors that work on the technology— disruptive, innovative technology—and then we’re going to look for partners who will bring it forward,” Conrad told Backchannel’s Steven Levy.
More than 100 Googlers — with backgrounds including chemistry, astrophysics, and electrical engineering — are working on this nanoparticle project. The company is also collaborating with MIT, Stanford, and Duke.
Watch a video from the WSJ conference:
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