After Google Glass and Google self-driving car, Google X is up to greater good. The top secret division of Google Inc., Google X is now gearing up for healthier landscapes. After revealing its plans to work on contact lenses for diabetic patients and inventing assisting technology for Parkinson’s patients to control hand tremors, Google X is now reportedly working on a wearable that could help people with the timely detection of cancer cells in the body. While today people who are at the risk of malignancy have to go through a lot of invasive and time-consuming process of detection, thanks to Google X it might be as easier as just popping a pill.
The project was initially announced in October 2014 and it is still in exploratory phase. Over a team of 100 employees is engaged with the project of cancer-detecting wristband. Some of the team members are Scientific Lead Vikram Bajaj, Biomedical Systems Engineering Group Lead Vasiliki Demas, Astrophysicist James Higbie, Systems Immunology Scientific Lead Sanjeev Mariathasan, Clinical Science Leader Mark Lee, and Chemistry and Chemical Biology Group Manager Mark Audeh.
This wearable nanotechnology depends on the interaction between the cancer-detecting wrist device and pill. The pill’s particles develop magnetized antibodies, which are programmed to attach to the cancerous cells i.e. cells with abnormal growth. The wearable device’s work is to drag the particles back to report the observations.
The particles released by the pill also make cancerous cells to become fluorescent and hence, to be capable of being detected by an MRI even before they become larger in size.
This is somewhat similar to Y Combinator-backed Bikanta that works on the same nanotechnology. Google has also created synthetic arms to test the reaction of nanoparticles and light under the account of different ethnicities, skin tones and thickness.
The team at Google X is of opinion that it will help people who are at the high risk of malignancy. The head of Google’s Life Sciences, Andrew Conrad has earlier stated that his team’s work is trying to focus its energies on proactive work on now and render tools that could make a difference.
Google is hopeful of this technology as a foundation of further scientific advancements too in the years to come. In the press release, Google has wished to develop enzymes that could detect the arterial plaques in the heart and prevent heart stroke. Similarly, on the basis of this pill and wearable device, a post-chemo cancer diagnosis can also be developed. Google is hoping to make a breakthrough with this as its efforts are focussed towards creating a wearable that detects disease. While others wearables have created a data-backing and based-on-observations apps or wearables, Google X’s cancer-detection-wearable is scientific and personalized.
The implications of Google cancer wearable device are indeed astounding. Imagine the number of lives it could save. While the earlier projects such as Google Glass and self-driving car has met with scepticism and lack of feasibility, the healthcare projects have been lauded by all.
Nanotechnology has also garnered the interest of the U.S. government which till now has invested $20 billion in nanotechnology. Even though, there has been no commercially viable product. Though, Google is not alone in the field trying to make a difference in the healthcare sector. Miroculus has also devised a device, Miriam that lets users to detect diseases including cancer within 60 minutes with the help of smartphone app and a sample blood test.
According to Conrad, it is like a self-driving car that can be parked where you want it to and get it back for driving again. Google has been at a receiving end for comprising privacy and security of users and handing over details to the U.S. government. Conrad, this time has made it very clear that healthcare data will be handled with extreme caution by a third-party and not Google.
Availability of Google X cancer-detection-wearable
Conrad has confirmed that the project is going good but refused to put a timeline to its public release.
The majority of malignancy cases are reported and diagnosed at the last stage and need invasive surgery. Such cases have a survival rate of just 10% whereas cancer is a curable disease and need only chemotherapy if it can be diagnosed early. The latter has a survival chance of about 90%. If this technology ever sees the light of the day, it can make a lot of difference to mankind.