Google develops cancer-detecting wristband


Google is developing a health wearable that could detect serious illnesses such as strokes and heart attacks before they happen and diagnose cancer in patients.

The wristband would read disease-detecting nanoparticles that you swallow in pill form, identifying changes in your body and alerting you and doctors if there's a concern. The particles are magnetic and will have antibodies or proteins attached to them in order to help detection of invading cells.

Molecular biologist Dr Andrew Conrad is leading the project and told the WSJD Live conference: "[The nanoparticles] course through your body and because the cores of these particles are magnetic, you can call them somewhere and ask them what they saw."

The smart device would allow you to see where the problem is and attaching a magnet would trap the nanoparticles. Although the field of using nanoparticles in medicine is pretty new, it could be a groundbreaking way of treating irregular cells, allowing medical professionals to treat illness more efficiently.

Two ways the company said this would work is by picking up the site of cancerous cells, or using magnets to trap fatty cells that could cause a stroke or a heart attack should they get stuck in heart passages or in the brain.

Dr Conrad said: "You recall those nanoparticles to a single location - because they are magnetic - and that location is the superficial vasculature of the wrist, you can ask them what they saw."

According to the department's research, 2,000 nanoparticles would fit into a single red blood cell, making it ideal for them to travel around the body, causing little disruption to your normal functions.

The data would be sent to medical professionals and would not be collected by Google, the company said, which is sure to be a big concern of those using such technology.

Medicine is one of the sectors set to use wearables most openly, with companies including Intel already developing devices to help research. The chip-maker has teamed up with the Michael J Fox Foundation to monitor Parkinson's Disease in a number of sufferers.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.