Google's plans for a wearable that would zap harmful particles in the body are shaping up.
In a recently issued patent application, Google provided details on a novel medical treatment that would involve sending tiny magnetic particles into patients' bloodstreams. The magnetic particles, activated by a smart wristband, would attack cancer cells and pathogens linked to other diseases. The patent was filed in September 2013 by Andrew Conrad, head of Google's life sciences division.
The patent appears similar to a treatment Google described in October, but the company did not immediately return BuzzFeed News' requests for confirmation.
A patient would first inject, ingest, inhale, or absorb tiny magnetic particles into their bloodstream. These nanoparticles, as they're also known, would be designed to selectively bind with or recognize the targeted molecules. For example, they might be designed to stick to proteins that appear to foster the development of Parkinson's disease, according to documents.
The patient would wear a wristband a few millimeters from an artery or vein, although it could also be worn on the ankle, waist, chest, or elsewhere on the body, according to the patent. The device would then transmit energy, such as a radio frequency pulse, that would cause the magnetic particles to vibrate and heat up, and destroy or handicap the targeted pathogen.
While it sounds wild, Google isn't one to shy away from ideas straight out of science fiction. Researchers in its experimental lab, Google[x], are also cooking up driverless cars, a smart contact lens for diabetics, and a network of high-altitude balloons that provide internet access. And like all of those projects, the nanoparticle treatment would have to clear a litany of technical and regulatory hurdles before it became reality. A product that doctors could use is at least five years away, industry experts have said.
The wearable, as described in the patent, wouldn't just zap pathogens. It could also include sensors for measuring blood pressure, pulse rate, and skin temperature. It'd also display the time and date — as if this were just another ordinary watch.
Stephanie Lee is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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