Amara Nwosu

MBCHB MRCP PhD

Nanotechnology to diagnose and monitor cancer – can palliative care benefit? The Google X project

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Google have entered into the health research arena. They aim to use technology to diagnose cancer early. I believe is exciting and should cause us to question how technology could be used in palliative care.

Computer science has arguably overtaken medicine as the newest academic discipline. Modern applications like the iPhone (only developed in 2007) have irreversibly changed the way we interact with technology on a daily basis. However, it is not common to hear about medics collaborating with computer scientists or undertaking computer science courses or research. This is in contrast with  other academic disciplines such as natural sciences, social sciences and psychology.

The ‘Google X’ project aims to avoid unnecessary deaths. In terms of cancer Google propose a diagnostic ‘smart pill’ that can be swallowed by an individual which. The pull would contain magnetised nanoparticles that would be released into the blood when swallowed. These particles would travel round the body looking for biomarkers, only to return (by action of their magnets) to a wearable device on the wrist to download the results. In addition to cancer Google indicate that other markers (such as sodium) could be monitored.

Google’s aim to reduce unnecessary deaths is admirable; however, should we also be asking how we can use computer science and concepts like nanotechnology to improve palliative care? Or, conversely, should high tech, high cost interventions be avoided at the end of life? This is interesting food for thought. What is certain is that technology and innovation will continue and the role this has in palliative care needs to be considered.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/07/google-x-sets-out-define-healthy-human

http://online.wsj.com/articles/google-to-collect-data-to-define-healthy-human-1406246214

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