Why Google Wants to Put Nanoparticles in Your Body

Nancy Crotti

October 31, 2014

3 Min Read
Why Google Wants to Put Nanoparticles in Your Body

Google has infiltrated so much of our lives; now it wants to get inside our bodies, via disease-detecting nanoparticles.

The tech giant has announced its ambitious project to develop nanoparticles that would be coated with a disease-detecting substance and possibly packed into a pill, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. 

Google's cofounders may have once downplayed that they're interested in turning the tech giant into a healthcare company. But their company sure hasn't been acting that way lately. Here are five recent Google efforts worth keeping an eye on.

The nanoparticles, which would be one-thousandth the size of a red blood cell, would circulate throughout the body, hunting for and attaching themselves to cells, protein particles, or other molecules that indicate the presence of a disease, such as cancer. Google is also working on a wearable device that would magnetically attract and count the particles.

Dr. Andrew Conrad, who leads the Life Sciences team at the Google X research lab, announced the project at The Wall Street Journal's WSJD Live conference.

Google X has drawn 100 employees from its astrophysics, chemistry, and electrical engineering staff to work on the nanoparticle project, and predicted the disease-seeking probes would be available within five years, according to the Journal report.

The nanoparticle project is the latest in a series of health-related initiatives that Google has announced in recent months. One would measure the blood sugar levels of diabetics through a contact lens.

Qmed has also reported that Google has been working with Alcon, a branch of Novartis, on developing contact lenses to help people living with presbyopia to read without glasses.

Surgeons have also begun to use Google Glass to assist in surgery.

Conrad predicted that Google X's nanoparticle project would allow patients to skip medical office visits for testing.

If pulled off, it could be a pretty disruptive innovation.

Contact lenses are one thing, worn atop the eye, and removable by the user. Small armies of magnetized nanoparticles circulating inside the body are quite another.

The project has raised several sets of eyebrows about the challenges behind such an endeavor. They include the number of nanoparticles that would be needed; how to develop a viable coating that would attach itself to different types of cells; a potentially difficult and lengthy regulatory process, particularly if it involves pills; the size of the wearable device; its unobtrusiveness; and need for recharging, the Journal reported.

And that doesn't even cover the privacy issues around such a project.

Nancy Crotti is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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About the Author(s)

Nancy Crotti

Nancy Crotti is a frequent contributor to MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected].

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