Google seems to be branching out lately – one of their recent projects is a wrist-worn device that could potentially detect and destroy cancer cells in the blood.
The corporation filed a patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization recently for a device with the name “Nanoparticle Phoresis”.
The device is a watch-like contraption that can “automatically modify or destroy one or more targets in the blood that have an adverse health effect”, according to the patent application(1).
A Cancer-Detecting Watch For Earlier Diagnoses
Many cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, aren’t detected until after they have become difficult to treat.
Google’s hope for their new invention is for it to be an early warning system, monitoring the wearer’s biochemistry for changes via a swallowed pill and wrist-worn sensor.
The invention is still in the early stage, but Google developers think it could be ready for use in five years(2).
The project is being led by Andrew Conrad, a doctor of molecular biology whose accessible and affordable HIV test is now widely used around the world.
“What we are trying to do is change medicine from reactive and transactional to proactive and preventative,” he said in an interview with BBC(3).
“Nanoparticles… give you the ability to explore the body at a molecular and cellular level.”
The nanoparticles he’s referring to are tiny particles that would enter the blood stream and “report back” to the wrist device on levels of chemicals in the blood, as well as potentially enzymes, hormones and proteins as well.
Google’s Life Sciences Team
The project is an initiative of Google X, a new division of Google opened in 2014. Employing several renowned scientists, Google X is hoping to be a major innovator in terms of healthcare technology.
“Google X is one of the few places where the world’s best physicians and other scientists sit together in a cafeteria eating free food and figuring out how a smart contact lens should work,” Andrew Conrad told the Wall Street Journal(4). “I have a strong belief that this will be fruitful.”
More Than Just Hype
While the project may seem like it belongs in the realm of science fiction, many people are taking this patent application seriously.
Researchers on the project at Google X explained to Wired Magazine why they feel Google X is uniquely qualified to make this concept a reality:
“Academic institutions aren’t as good at making an actual product. Research has to leave the academic world and move into the industrial world, and most industrial world applications are focused on therapeutics rather than diagnostics – and certainly not diagnostics based on wearable sensors.”(5)
Google X, they believe, is one of the first wave of companies to take on such an innovative project.
Google Uses Fake Human Skin to Test Its Cancer-Detecting Nanoparticles