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Google’s Magic Pill Will Search Out Cancer—Or Is It the Nanoparticles?

By Ryan Wallace staff@sciencetimes.com | Oct 28, 2014 07:46 PM EDT

In a day and age where nearly every problem is solvable with the help of the trusty internet and fast-powered search engines, why wouldn't we expect some help in the health department, much more clinical than what we can find on WebMD? It's a sector many companies have not been able to explore, but with the support and funding of the world's largest search engine, researchers at Google are aiming to diagnose cancers, strokes and even a heart attack through tiny technology you can track on a wristwatch.

Combining disease-detecting nanoparticles, which will non-invasively enter the patients' bloodstream via a swallow-able capsule, and the concept of an individual's unique biochemistry, the company is developing an early warning system that will use changes in the blood and healthy tissues to signal any possible complications or ailments it encounters. And while the work is still in its early stages of development, Google's ambitious goal of early detection of cancerous tissues is well underway.

Led by the search company's research development unit, Google X, the project will add to the brand's diverse innovations in the technology sector while marking a distinct shift the company is heading in bettering the healthcare industry.

"What we are trying to do is change medicine from reactive and transactional to proactive and preventative" lead researcher of the diagnostic project Dr. Andrew Conrad says. Something that the Google X team believes will be achievable by the successful harnessing of nanotechnology. "Nanoparticles give you the ability to explore the body at a molecular and cellular level."

Designing a line of nanoparticles that will act much like lymphocytes and T-Cells of the human immune system, Google hopes to match protein markers for different conditions to successfully signal diseased or infected tissues. Not only could the nanoparticles be tailored to attach and identify cancerous cells, they would also be constant monitors of the biochemistry of the blood, and as any good doctor knows hematology is perhaps the most important study to the field of medicine that there is. As a portal to the overall health of the human being, the blood will divulge insights to researchers and doctors that will not only convey what the currently problem is, but also what issues may come.

In theory, the nanoparticles would function on a source of magnetism that would allow researchers to track movements and data the particles would collect. By developing specialty software, the company's forte, doctors would then be able to study the movements of the nanotechnology and offer a diagnosis based on data collected without the need of as much as an x-ray or a biopsy.

"[Using this technology] we will be able to recall those nanoparticles to a single location, because they are magnetic, and ask them what they saw" Conrad says. And their journeys to and from your organ systems to your wrist may reveal much more than what you'd be able to find in a Google search bar alone.

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