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Today, we can say that Google is in every part of our life. Our, laptops, cell phones, cars, homes, and soon it will be inside our bodies too, as the huge company is planning to examine cancer, heart attacks or strokes and other diseases.

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Google X, which is the Google’s research lab, revealed that detecting cancer could be as easy as popping a pill in the near future.

Andrew Conrad, the Google’s head of life sciences, declared that Google X is working on a technology that combines disease-detecting nanoparticles, which would enter a patient’s bloodstream via a swallowed pill, with a wrist-worn sensor.

Andrew Conrad, Head of Google[X] Life Sciences

Andrew Conrad, Head of Google[X] Life Sciences

During the Wall Street Journal Digital conference, Conrad said:

“We’re passionate about switching from reactive to proactive and we’re trying to provide the tools that make that feasible.”

This project is the third one in a series of health initiatives for Google X, which has already developed self-driving cars, high-altitude balloons to deliver internet and Google Glass. The new developing pill is filled with tiny iron-oxide nanoparticles, which are magnetic particles about one billionth of a meter in width, are able to identify cancer tumour cells.

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The nanoparticles are able to combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can link to and discover other molecules inside the body. Here comes the work of the wearable device, which calls the nanoparticles back to ask them what’s going on with the body and to discover if the person who swallowed the pill has cancer or other diseases. The wearable device can be worn on the wrist in order to gather the magnetic cores back together and read what they’ve found.

According to the Telegraph, the nanoparticles monitor and test cells rather than delivering drugs, giving a heads-up on potentially life-threatening diseases.

Mr. Conrad, who is a molecular biologist who previously developed an inexpensive HIV test that has become widely used, he explained that  the person could use a wearable device to gather them in the superficial veins on the inside of the wrist:

“Because the core of these particles is magnetic, you can call them somewhere, These little particles go out and mingle with the people, we call them back to one place, and we ask them: ‘Hey, what did you see? Did you find cancer? Did you see something that looks like a fragile plaque for a heart attack? Did you see too much sodium?”

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Scientists think that nanotechnology could greatly enhance medicine. According to a separately released statement from Google:

“Maybe there could be a test for the enzymes given off by arterial plaques that are about to rupture and cause a heart attack or stroke. Perhaps someone could develop a diagnostic for post-surgery or post-chemo cancer patients – that’s a lot of anxious people right there (note: we’d leave this ‘product development’ work to companies we’d license the tech to; they’d develop specific diagnostics and test them for efficacy and safety in clinical trials.”

This project, which is similar to Y Combinator-backed Bikanta, was inspired by Google software engineer Tom Stanis, who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Later, reports claimed that the medical scans revealed a tumor in Stanis’ kidney. Usually, the symptoms of renal cancer are rarely showed, but the early diagnosis was enough to remove the tumor and get Tom healthy again.

The new pill (with its accompanying wearables) can also use the internet to send information and contact which ever doctor is involved. The pill-user or his/her doctor could observe the health of the user in a more consistent way.

Google said it has already started work on the project of the new pill, as well as the plans to license the technology to medical firms. The company also added that it is designing a suite of nanoparticles which are intended to match markers for different conditions.

Last January, Google unveiled a contact lens that would let diabetics check up on blood glucose levels through the tears in their eyes.

The Google spokesman said:

“Our mission is to help move health care from reactive to proactive. Our team combines expertise from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, computer science, and more, and we are focused on developing new diagnostic tools for physicians — especially new smart devices that integrate easily into daily life and could help transform the detection, prevention, and management of disease.”

More than $20 billion were invested by the US government on nanotechnology-related researches during the last 10 years, and about 100 Google employees with expertise in astrophysics, chemistry and electrical engineering have participated in this nanoparticle project. Considering this wide interest in nanotechnology, no doubt, we will have new amazing projects in the near future.

 

Sources:

(1) Google

(2) BBC

(3) Daily Mail


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