After launching its ‘Ingress’ Augmented-reality game for iOS devices, Google now wants to explore the human body via Baseline Study project headed up by Google X’s Dr Andrew Conrad, with an aim to detect things like heart disease and cancer. In order to create a picture of a perfectly healthy human being, the company is collecting genetic and molecular information from 175 people with an aims to preventing and treating diseases.
Google has recently developed a smart contact lens to help those with diabetes monitor glucose levels. This smart lens technology will also used in Baseline team’s research to become a useful tool in medical field.
Conrad is expected to built a team of 70 to 100 experts in a range of fields including biochemistry, optics, imaging and physiology within- the company’s secretive research arm, Google X.
Once all of the thousands of samples are gathered, Google’s massive computing power will enable researchers to easily search, store and share key medical information. Google says that patients’ sensitive data will only be shared with medical service providers and will not be disclosed to insurance companies. Baseline’s data will be monitored by institutional review boards at Stanford University and Duke University, respectively.
NewsWeek says: Dr. Sam Gambhir, chair at the Department of Radiology at Stanford University Medical School, told The Wall Street Journal that “Google will not be allowed free rein to do whatever it wants with this data.” Gambhir has been working alongside Conrad on Baseline for the past year.
The Wall Street Journal notes that Gambhir launched a similar sequencing study 10 years ago that tapered off due to exorbitant costs. But the cost of collecting genetic and molecular information has declined significantly in the past 15 years—sequencing a human genome now only costs $1,000 instead of $100 million for the process in the early 2000s.
Digital Trends says: “With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems,” Conrad said, noting “that’s not revolutionary.”
“We are just asking the question: If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know? You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like,” the scientist said.
Google is hoping that by opening up its information processing expertise to medical researchers, Conrad and his team will be able to more easily discover patterns, or biomarkers, that could ultimately lead to diseases and illnesses being spotted at a much earlier stage.
TOI says: But it’s not the only one with this idea. Apple is also on a massive health kick right now, announcing its Health Kit app at WWDC, which will not only keep an eye on users’ health but allow for that information to be shared their doctor. And how could we forget the ongoing rumours of Apple’s fitness-focussed iWatch?
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