Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Google Is Tackling Death

November 14, 2014
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How Google Is Tackling Death
Google's ambition to cure death is beginning to take shape in a new product from its Google X division. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
The tech company's target: Defeating terminal illnesses.

Google has successfully created a search engine, a web browser and even wearable tech. Now, they’re turning their attention to death. Yes, really.

The tech company is looking to defeat death by using some potentially radical new nanoparticles that would enter one’s bloodstream in search of problematic cells, according to The Verge. These nanoparticles would be most likely ingested and then monitored through a magnetic bracelet that would summon them for a headcount when needed.

While this sounds like science fiction, it’s actually a development from a secret lab, called Google[x], where shoot-for-the-stars experiments like elevators to space (mobilized along cables tethered like antennae to the Earth) are the serious undertakings of some of Google’s most ambitious employees. Google[x] aims to be the Xerox PARC (a similar think-tank-like collaboration from the 1970s in which the personal computer was invented) of the 21st century.

Pending FDA approval, Google’s nanoparticles aren’t due out for another five years. The product also must surpass certain concerns regarding their effectiveness and safety, such as the uncertainty of how many particles will be needed to identify a problematic cell and the potential for these “metallic flakes” (as pointed out in an article by Science of Singularity) to conglomerate and cause issues in areas like heart valves, the lymphatic system and even the brain.

There is also still the need for the development of a coating (probably an antibody) that will allow the nanoparticles to attach to the proteins or fats of the targeted cells. Dr. Clay Marsh, Chief innovation officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center talked to Live Science about potential problems the nanoparticles will have getting consistent results in lieu of the slight, individual differences in biological makeup.

Ideally, however, these particles — which will be 1/1000th the size of a red blood cell — could accurately identify cells that might be cancerous or proteins known to be released by at-risk hearts. Gizmodo reports that Google[x] wouldn’t collect or store medical data, but would, instead, license this technology to “others who will handle the information and its security.”

“Fundamentally, our foe is death. Our foe is unnecessary death,” says Andrew Conrad, head of Google[x]’s life science’s division, to The Verge.

The possible effectiveness of having proactive treatment of diseases such as cancer could be monumental. Who knows: maybe one day we will sit our children down and tell them about how a search engine company defeated cancer.

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