In its latest effort to live up to the company maxim of “Don’t be evil,” Google is cooking up a new technology that could potentially change the way we find and treat cancer. According to a new piece in the Wall Street Journal, the company’s experimental Google X division – the one working on self-driving cars, diabetes-monitoring contact lenses, and Google Glass – is hoping its in-development nanoparticle project will find cancer cells as they develop within the human body.

Described as “tiny magnetic particles,” measuring “less than one-thousandth the width of a red blood cell,” the particles would be inserted into a living body and “seek out and attach themselves to cells, proteins or other molecules inside the body.” The point, ostensibly, would be to track certain indicators of cancer or other illnesses, or the cancerous cells themselves. From there, the technology would also incorporate the use of a “wearable device with a magnet to attract and count the particles, as a monitoring tool.”

Like many of Google X’s initiatives, of course, there’s a pretty huge question mark as to the specifics of how this technology would be deployed – or when. The report says that it’s “likely more than five years off,” and that Google is still figuring out important details like how to get the nanoparticles to bind with targets, how many nanoparticles would be necessary for the system to work, and even the simple question of what kind of wearable device would be needed. In short, Google’s goal of injecting us with teeny cancer-fighting Google-bots might not happen for quite a while, if it ever happens at all.

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Still, the goal is laudable, and even the fact that Google is researching how to make it work could signify some exciting breakthroughs in medicine in the next few years. If nothing else, the nanoparticle project is the kind of initiative that separates Google from your average multibillion dollar corporation.

Should we just elect Google president now? Or is this just the latest plot to sell advertising space, but this time inside our very bodies? Either way, I’d watch that television miniseries.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]


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