While using microscopic particles to patrol a person's body for indications of cancer and other diseases may sound like something out of a movie, Google Inc. announced it is designing a pill that does just that.
Andrew Conrad, head of the Life Sciences team at the Google X research lab, spoke about the project at The Wall Street Journal's digital conference, WSJD Live, on Tuesday in Laguna Beach, California.
The projects comes as an attempt to "functionalize" nanoparticles — particles so small that millions could fit into a single grain of sand — which Conrad called the "nexus between engineering and biology."
But the complicated science will be made simple for patients. In fact, Conrad said, it will be as easy as swallowing a pill.
"You just swallow a pill with the nanoparticles and they're decorated with antibodies or molecules that detect other molecules," Conrad said.
He explained that the particles then "course through your body" before a magnet recalls them to one central spot in a person's body to "ask them what they saw."
"What we're hoping to do is, these little particles go out and mingle with the people, we call them back to one place and we ask them, 'Hey, what'd you see?' "
This is where finding early indicators for disease comes in, enabling doctors and patients to easily screen for cancer, heart attack indicators, elevated sodium levels, etc.
However, The Wall Street Journal wrote, "Even if Google can make the system work, it wouldn’t immediately be clear how to interpret the results."
An arm of Google separate from the Internet giant's research labs, Google X deals in creating and developing products that interact with the physical world. Google X has previously produced projects like Google Glass and glucose-monitoring contact lenses, to name a few.
A consumer-ready product is still years away. Sam Gambhir, the chairman of radiology at Stanford University Medical School who has been advising Conrad for more than a year, told The Wall Street Journal that Google is still "five to seven years away from a product approved for use by doctors."