Google developing wearable health monitor for cancer and heart attacks

It sounds a bit like something out of science fiction, but Google have begun developing a wearable device that can detect cancer formation and other major health issues. It could be, in the future, that we all wear these devices as a means of early warning for life threatening ailments.
The basic principle of this technology is that one would wear a sensor, which at this stage it aims to be in the form of a wristband that would monitor nanoparticles inside the body. These nanoparticles would likely be ingested and circulate in the bloodstream. The particles would act as markers by associating with cancer cells, and potentially find evidence of fatty plaques in the blood vessels associated with heart attacks and strokes. This means that any minute change in a person’s intricate biochemistry could be picked up and relayed to the sensor, potentially speeding up diagnosis and aiding physicians to begin treatment for the disease much faster. It is proposed that another set of nanoparticle markers would monitor levels of different chemicals in the blood.
Leader of the diagnostic project, Dr Andrew Conrad said: “Nanoparticles… give you the ability to explore the body at a molecular and cellular level”. He added: “Then [you can] recall those nanoparticles to a single location – because they are magnetic – and that location is the superficial vasculature of the wrist, [where] you can ask them what they saw”. This is truly a revolutionary concept that could vastly improve the speed of diagnosis and, in some cases, a subsequent improved prognosis. However, at this stage, it is just that – an idea – and only time will tell whether this will come to fruition. Whilst the idea of monitoring markers of cancer is not new, the plan to integrate it into a wearable, everyday item is what really makes the idea exciting.
It is an interesting concept to ponder. What would our lives be like if this was put into production? One does wonder if it would not merely cause more problems than it solves. An increased anxiety would surely arise, as well as cases of misdiagnosis and false positives if the technology fails. It appears to put a lot of faith in the technology running smoothly. Another key issue to consider is that how would it be paid for. It cannot realistically be a consumer product. Google have already stated: “We are the inventors of the technology but we have no intentions of commercialising it or monetising it in that way”. It appears to be the intention to make the scheme public so that Google can establish partnerships. Google have already had successes in the medical field. With its promising work on glucose monitoring contact lenses for diabetics and its stakes in other medical research, it could be that its influence on medical research becomes even more prevalent in the future.


About Author


jacobbeebe Going into his 2nd year of his Biomedicine degree, Jacob plans to spend his time in the hive huddled around a cuppa’ - more than likely sporting a befuddled expression on his face. Aside from his studies he is a guitarist, saxophonist and a budding drummer. Previously a committed Environment writer, he aims to make the newly formed Science and Environment section an interesting new addition to Concrete.

April 2021
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