Google X has another moonshot up its sleeve. This time it is magnetic particles that will roam the human body, looking for diseases.
The particles are called nanoparticles and are one-thousandth the width of a red blood cell. They'd act like little patrol officers, seeking out and latching onto cells, proteins, and other molecules, with the hopes of being able to identify and eventually treat diseases like cancer. In order to get the particles into your body, you'd probably have to swallow them via a pill.
Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences team at the Google X, told The Wall Street Journal that he hopes all doctors of the future will use the system. But that's at least five years away, because researchers still have to figure out how to bind the particles to specific cells. Google X doesn't even know how many nanoparticles would be needed to make the system work in a body.
That said, Google x has been developing a wearable device with a magnet that can attract and count the particles. The device eventually needs to be smaller while still containing a long-lasting battery. Another hurdle includes privacy. Although Google promised not to collect or store data, people may not like the idea of giving Google carte-blanche access to their body and medical information.
Google apparently plans to license nanoparticle technology to others who will control the information and security side of things, though the Google X Life Sciences team wants to use all gathered data to develop proactive medicines and treatments. Currently, the team is comprised of more than 100 people from fields like astrophysics, chemistry, and electrical engineering.
With such big-thinkers on board, it's no surprise that Google X has already developed ways to create tiny iron-oxide particles that could one day bind to cells. The nanoparticles might even carry antibodies that will latch onto proteins on the surface of tumor cells.
The nanoparticles, potentially, would also be used for continuous testing and monitoring.