Google is currently working on a nanoparticle pill that should identify cancers, heart attacks and other disease before they are at an advanced stage. Google announced the development of this pill on Tuesday at WSJD Live Conference in California.
The pill will contain magnetic particles that are about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The magnetic particles will have antibodies or proteins attached to them that detect the presence of “biomarker” molecules. “Biomarker” molecules indicate diseases like cancer or an imminent heart attack.
According to the head of life sciences inside Google’s “moonshot” X research lab, the idea of this pill is simple, once the pill with the nanoparticles is swallowed, the antibodies will detect the biomarkers. Because the particles are magnetic, they can be summoned anywhere in the body.
Just by placing a magnet on the wrist, where there are superficial veins, the nanoparticles become trapped there.
Google is simultaneously developing a wrist-worn device like a smartwatch that will be used to read what the particles have detected on their trip through the blood stream.
This system, known as the nanoparticle platform, is Google’s latest venture into the lucrative health market. This market is currently worth 10% of the economy of developed nations. In Britain more than £100bn is spent a year on the National Health Service.
The nanoparticle platform is part of the movement away from reactive medicine to pre-emptive medicine. Reactive medicine treats diseases once they have become serious enough to cause symptoms for patients prompting them to go and see a doctor. Pre-emptive medicine catches signs of disease much earlier before it becomes a problem.
Pre-emptive medicine requires new ways of monitoring the normal health of individuals. Google’s Baseline Health study is also part of this effort, it was unveiled in July.
The work is still in its early stages, but the work is being made public in an effort to find partners to help take the technology forward.