Having already waded knee-deep in to the realm of driverless cars, optical head-mounted displays along with other wearable technology, Google is reportedly poised to tackle its biggest challenge yet C a perfectly healthy human body.
According to Alistair Barr of The Wall Street Journal, the Mountain View, California-based firm’s Baseline Study project will collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 men and women in the hopes that it may allow experts to build up a detailed map of the items the physiology of the healthy human being need to look like.
Fifty-year-old molecular biologist Dr. Andrew Conrad, who helped develop inexpensive high-volume tests for HIV in blood-plasma donations, come in control of the early stages from the project, Barr said. Dr. Conrad joined the company’s Google X research branch in March 2013, and since then he has recruited between 70 and 100 physiology, biochemistry, optics, imaging and molecular biology experts to work alongside him.
As Fast Company’s Chris Gayomali explained, Bing is not the only company to produce full of molecular-level or genomic study, as the Human Genome Project was launched in 1990 and began to ensure that you sequence a persons genetic code in 2003. However, Google is said to be mostly of the companies on Earth with the resources and capabilities to do an in-depth study of the body’s proteins and enzymes.
“The hope is that this can help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention as opposed to the treatment of illness,” Barr said. “The project won’t be limited to specific diseases, and it will collect hundreds of different samples utilizing a wide variety of new diagnostic tools. Then Google uses its massive computing power to find patterns, or ‘biomarkers,’ buried in the information.”
“The hope is the fact that these biomarkers may be used by medical scientists to detect any disease a great deal earlier,” he added. “The study may, for example, reveal a biomarker that helps many people break up fatty foods efficiently, helping them live a long time without high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Others may lack this trait and succumb to early heart attacks. Once Baseline has identified the biomarker, researchers could check if other people lack it and help them modify their behavior or develop a new treatment to assist them to break down fatty foods better.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that Google had licensed its smart contact technology to pharmaceutical giant Novartis, who intends to use it to develop lenses capable of helping diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels. The device, which consists of a wireless chip and miniaturized sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact material, would essentially provide 24-7 glucose monitoring by testing the tears of the person putting them on.
Google unveiled a prototype form of the lens earlier this year. At that time, it was capable of testing tears once per second, and was investigating using Leds that may serve as another early-warning system. Furthermore, Novartis officials said they feel the “smart lens” technology might be adapted to help people struggling with presbyopia, an age-related condition that robs the eye’s ability to focus naturally.
The Baseline Study is an even more ambitious project C the one that Barr says will trust the company’s massive network of computers and data centers to keep and analyze medical information making it easier for researchers to access. Most biomarkers discovered up to now are associated with late-stage diseases, since studies typically focus on ill patients, and efforts for their services to detect ailments earlier have met with mixed success.
Dr. Conrad told The Wall Street Journal he expects progress to be made in “little increments,” and his Baseline colleague Dr. Sam Gambhir, who also chairs the Stanford University Medical School’s Department of Radiology, asserted Dr. Conrad understands “that this isn’t an application project that’ll be completed in one or two years. We accustomed to discuss curing cancer and carrying this out within a few years. We’ve learned to not say those activities anymore.”
Google has promised the information collected for that Baseline Study will be anonymous, and that it will be used solely for medical and health-related purposes, Barr said C no information will be distributed to insurance providers. However, he added the fact that the company “would be aware of structure of a large number of people’s bodies C right down to the molecules inside their cells C raises significant problems with privacy and fairness.”