Google is aiming to diagnose cancers, impending heart attacks or strokes and other diseases, at a much earlier stage than is currently possible.
The company is working on technology that combines disease-detecting nanoparticles, which would enter a patient’s bloodstream via a swallowed pill, with a wrist-worn sensor.
The diagnostic project is being led by Dr Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist who previously developed a cheap HIV test that has become widely used.
The idea is to identify slight changes in the person’s biochemistry that could act as an early warning system.
“Essentially the idea is simple; you just swallow a pill with the nano particles, which are decorated with antibodies or molecules that detect other molecules,” explained Andrew Conrad, head of life sciences inside the Google’s “moonshot” X research lab to WSJD Live conference in California Tuesday.
“They course through your body and because the cores of these particles are magnetic, you can call them somewhere and ask them what they saw.”
The pill would contain magnetic particles approximately 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. These tiny particles will have antibodies or proteins attached to them that detect the presence of “biomarker” molecules inside the body that indicate diseases such as cancer or an imminent heart attack.
The work is still at an early stage.
Early diagnosis is the key to treating disease. Many cancers, such as pancreatic, are detected only after they have become untreatable and fatal.
There are marked differences between cancerous and healthy tissues.
The project is being conducted by the search company’s research unit, Google X, which is dedicated to investigating potentially revolutionary innovations.
Google’s ambition is to constantly monitor the blood for the unique traces of cancer through a wristband that would take readings of the nanoparticles via light and radio waves one or more times a day, allowing diagnosis long before any physical symptoms appear.
Reference: The Guardian, BBC news