Google Developing Wearable System To Detect Diseases Earlier

October 29, 2014 in News

On Tuesday, a Google executive said the company is working on a wearable device designed to help doctors detect cancer and other diseases earlier, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Details of Device

According to the Journal, Google is developing small magnetic particles, called nanoparticles, that would find and attach themselves to cells, proteins or other molecules inside an individual’s body.

The particles could be delivered into the system via an oral pill. The wearable device then would monitor the nanoparticles by using a magnet to attract and count them.

Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences department at the Google X research lab, said the device could be used as an early warning system for diseases like cancer. He said, “Every test you ever go to the doctor for will be done through this system. That is our dream.”

Potential Challenges

However, industry experts say such a device is at least five years away from being ready for use and would face both technical and social challenges, including:

  • Identifying coatings to help the particles attach to cells; and
  • Determining how many nanoparticles will be needed for the system to work.

In addition, experts say the wearable device will need to be small enough that it is unobtrusive but able to operate on a battery that does not need to be frequently recharged.

Further, Chad Mirkin, director of Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology, said that such technology would face “a much higher regulatory bar than conventional diagnostic tools.”

Experts also have noted potential privacy concerns related to the device (Barr/Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 10/29).

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