Google is currently gathering huge amounts of data on the human body in an effort to find what the a healthy person looks like in terms of cells and molecules.
The project, which is called the Baseline Study, is being lead by the secret Google X laboratory, Google announced in a statement on Thursday. Although only in a pilot phase, the study will be enrolling a total of 175 healthy individuals over the course of the summer. The study participants will then undergo some standard tests, like having blood drawn and urine collected.
By using the data from the tests, Google hopes to better understand what makes a person sick, and how to better combat those sicknesses.
“It may sound counter-intuitive, but by studying health, we might someday be better able to understand disease,” said Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist who is leading the study at Google X. “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.”
The study will not be looking for any specific diseases, but instead will be collecting data on virtually anything. The Google X lab plans to find patters, or biomarkers, buried in the data. These biomarkers could help doctors and researchers detect a variety of diseases earlier, the research team claims.
Google has claimed that the Baseline Study is not going to be used for any new products. Instead, it will be used only as a contribution to science and medicine. As the study gets fully started, the data will be controlled by Google, as well as boards run by the medical schools at Duke University and Stanford University.
The research is expected to last for years, as the human body is incredibly complex and Google expects to make only small advances at a time.
“We used to talk about curing cancer and doing this in a few years. We’ve learned to not say those things anymore,” said Dr. Sam Gambhir, who chairs the Department of Radiology at Stanford University’s medical school and is working on the Baseline Study.
Researchers working on the project hope that the medical world will be deeply impacted by the study, making it faster and easier to detect diseases.