Google Aims to Spot Cancer and Heart Disease with Wristband

The corporate culture of Silicon Valley is known for unorthodox work environments and policies that push employees to be creative and take risks, and Google is a model of this thinking. Last week, the company announced that one of the special projects it's working on entails creating a wristband that will perform diagnostic tests on the wearer, such as looking for indications of cancer and heart disease, among other ailments. The project is under way at the company's division called Google X, which undertakes a variety of research projects. You can read more about Google X research here and here.

Nanoparticles key to wristband success

Heading the research project is Andrew Conrad, a researcher and molecular biologist who is credited with greatly advancing HIV testing, among other impressive accomplishments. Conrad joined Google X last year on the wristband project, and his aim is to use nanoparticles that target molecular signs of various illnesses to make the wristband work, according to a recent article on In an interview with's Backchannel, Conrad described the functioning of the wristband as follows:

You take a capsule chock full of the nanoparticles, and they absorb into your body and into your bloodstream. These nanoparticles are two thousand times smaller than a single red blood cell. They're tiny. They're so little that they can pass through parts of your body, they go through the blood, they go through your lymph system, they just walk around. They're essentially very benign particles---there's already lots of FDA approved nanoparticles for imaging and stuff like that, because they're simply made out of an iron oxide core, like you take in a One-A-Day Plus Iron pill. And they're decorated with proteins and amino acids and DNA to make them bind to certain things.

You can read more about the wristband device in a recent report from the BBC, and for a more in-depth look into the work and a look at the personality shaping the project, check out a rare interview with Andrew Conrad.

Will this tricorder-like device soon be a reality?