The UK’s Telegraph speculates that Google may be working on a wearable to cure cancer – using Nanoparticle Phoresis.
According to the paper, Google filed the patent application with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) for a wearable that uses Nanoparticle Phoresis, and “can automatically modify or destroy one or more targets in the blood that have an adverse health effect”.
The targets for Nanoparticle Phoresis theoretically include cancer cells and other harmful cells.
Nanoparticle Phoresis is the process of transmitting energy into the blood vessels, says the Telegraph.
In Google’s example, certain proteins which have been implicated as a partial cause of Parkinson’s disease. The wearable device could be used to destroy these proteins, thereby slowing the development of the disease.
“As a further example, the target could be cancer cells; by selectively targeting and then modifying or destroying the cancer cells, the spread of cancer may be diminished,” Google said in its patent application.
In addition to Nanoparticle Phoresis, the tech giant announced last year that it is developing preventative drugs and devices to help spot cancer and heart attacks.
In these projects, the user swallows a pill (also containing nanoparticles engineered by Google) which spots cancerous cells and DNA. The particles are scanned, once a day, by a wristband device using light and radio waves – this device alerts the user to any appearance of cancerous cells long before symptoms appear, allowing an early treatment.
In previous and on-going collaborations and acquisitions, Google has linked up with the likes of start-up ‘Lift-Labs’ – the developer of a spoon which eases tremors in Parkinson’s patients, and Calico – an anti-ageing R&D firm, among others.
However, while the world’s biggest tech firm continues to search for partners in the drugs and devices sectors, commentators have warned that the any practical application using nanotechnology would need to be monitored carefully.
Prof Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research in London is an advocate of the research, but he told the BBC that the technology needs “very careful and rigorous analysis”. Some have pointed out that there is a risk of over-diagnosis if such devices are mis-used — for example, the presence of cancerous cells is not necessarily a guarantee that a fatal cancer will develop.