Google's Google X unit is reportedly working on a system for disease detection involving nanoparticles that float around in the bloodstream.
The effort is led by the Life Sciences department of Google X, which is run by Andrew Conrad. Steven Levy interviews him about the effort on Medium. Conrad explains:
So this nanoparticle platform we’re talking about essentially does the following: You take a capsule chock full of the nanoparticles, and they absorb into your body and into your bloodstream. These nanoparticles are two thousand times smaller than a single red blood cell. They’re tiny. They’re so little that they can pass through parts of your body, they go through the blood, they go through your lymph system, they just walk around. They’re essentially very benign particles—-there’s already lots of FDA approved nanoparticles for imaging and stuff like that, because they’re simply made out of an iron oxide core, like you take in a One-A-Day Plus Iron pill. And they’re decorated with proteins and amino acids and DNA to make them bind to certain things...The trick is decorate them with smart molecules on their surface so they do smart things.
You can use these nanoparticles to detect rare things like a cancer cell or you can use them to measure common molecules. For example, in one case we put a coating on the nanoparticle that finds sodium — it’s a super common molecule but very important in renal disease. When a sodium molecule comes into the nanoparticle, it causes the nanoparticle to fluoresce light at a different color. So by collecting those nanoparticles at your wrist, where you have a device that detects these changes, we can see what color they’re glowing, and that way you can tell the concentration of sodium. In another case, by having a magnet at your wrist you can tell whether the nanoparticles are bound to cancer cells. This allows us to let these messengers walk around Paris, bring them all back to a central location, and ask them what they saw, what they did, what they encountered. And imagine that is the way in which we’re trying to understand the culture of the French.
Definitely check out the full interview.
Google X Life Sciences is made up of 100 researchers. It's the same unit behind the Baseline Study revealed back in the summer, which involves the collection of genetic and molecular info from thousands of people with the hopes of getting a better picture of human health.
All of this is in addition to the separate company Google has created called Calico, which is trying to cure the ailments associated with aging.
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