IT Insights

New Google X Initiative Studies the Molecular and Genetic Structure of the Human Body

Google’s not just good for scouring the Internet for cat videos and funny memes. Google X, with a new project called Baseline, is now looking to study the makeup of the human body, which they are hoping will be able to prevent disease and foster a more healthy existence for individuals around the world.

The idea behind the study is to learn more about the insides of the human body, and how we can identify the warning signs of fatal health problems such as cancer or heart disease. This project leans toward finding out what makes the diseases take hold, and how we can prevent that from happening rather than treat it when it happens. It makes sense – take care of a problem before it even happens rather than look for a costly solution when it’s too late (just like Sabio Information Technologies’s proactive managed IT solutions!).

Baseline will gather the molecular and genetic information from 175 volunteers, all anonymously. At the moment, the study is only in its beginning stages, but it will later expand its scope to include thousands of participants. Project manager Dr. Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist, says that “this research could give us clues about how the human body stays healthy or becomes sick, which could in turn unlock insights into how diseases could be better detected or treated.”

Google X, which can be called the “mad scientist” sector of the Google powerhouse, is known for its strange and obscure projects. These projects are mainly designed to further advance today’s technology, and Google X has worked on various projects like Wi-Fi balloons, which send Internet service to those who, due to their location, normally wouldn’t be able to receive it, and driverless cars powered by the infamous Google Glass.

But, as it is with anything that collects personal information, this initiative raises some questions about privacy and human rights. As stated by CNET’s Richard Nieva, “Google, which makes the bulk of its revenue on advertising, lives on knowing information about its users, including where they travel on a map or what they search for online.” Google, however, has stated that the information they are gathering from the test participants will be anonymous and for medical purposes only, and it will not share the information with insurance companies.

Google has a set plan to jumpstart this project. It will use its excellent grasp on software to push the research for Baseline forward. Once the data has been collected, it will look for “biomarkers,” or patterns in the data. They are hoping to use wearable technology and devices to gather this data from its participants. Information gathered would include heart rate and oxygen levels, among other variables. Google has already partnered with the pharmaceutical company Novartis, and will use smart contact lenses to track particular health details of participants.

Is there nothing that technology can’t accomplish? What are your thoughts on using technology to understand disease? Do you think this could lead to a potential privacy issue for Google? Let us know in the comments!