Google Developing Pill That Searches for Cancer and Heart Disease

Nanotechnology could lead to fast, painless diagnosis

Google may be best known for its search engine, but it also employs a quiet "X" team dedicated to making revolutionary discoveries. And its latest project, if successful, would make it easier to spot killer medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease using microscopic nanoparticles, the BBC reported. 

About 2,000 nanoparticles can fit inside a red blood cell. That diminutive size interests medical researchers, who believe these could deliver cellular-level treatments. To that end, Google X researchers are working on a swallowable pill full of custom nanoparticles that could detect diseases. A wristband would scan the nanoparticles once a day with light and radio waves to help diagnose health conditions in the early stages.

Lead researcher and molecular biologist Dr. Andrew Conrad told the BBC: "Nanoparticles … give you the ability to explore the body at a molecular and cellular level. What we are trying to do is change medicine from reactive and transactional to proactive and preventative." 

Theoretically, the nanoparticles could attach to cancerous cells or find evidence of fatty plaque in arteries. They could even be designed to change colors to indicate high levels of potassium, an indicator of kidney disease.

Conrad said Google is looking for partners who can commercialize the nanotechnology. This isn't the company's first foray into the medical field—it has worked on glucose-monitoring contact lenses for diabetics. And it has invested in a startup that makes spoons for people with Parkinson's disease as well as the anti-aging research company Calico.

Publish date: October 29, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT