Health

Google takes on the human body to find out what a healthy person looks like

Google is joining the quest to map the human body, except it’s not just tackling one part of the body, it’s going whole hog to find answers to questions scientists still have about the way the body works — and what defines a healthy person.

The new project out of Google X, called Baseline Study, will collect genetic and molecular data from 175 anonymous people in an attempt to piece together an exquisitely detailed picture of what makes up a healthy human being, reports the Wall Street Journal. Google’s researchers will be collecting a broad set of data from a range of people with varying levels of health. The project then relies on Google’s strong computing power to decode all the gathered information and reveal patterns or biomarkers.

For example, some people are more prone to osteoporosis than others. Knowing how individuals process and break down various nutrients could help doctors understand what makes someone less likely to develop brittle bones.

A lot of nonsense flies around via magazines and word of mouth about what healthy behavior is and how diet plays a roll — but a lot of that is guess work. Many unknowns still remain when it comes to the complex interactions between DNA, enzymes, and proteins and how environmental factors like food fit in.

Baseline is not the first body mapping project; plenty of others have come before. But existing studies tend to focus on a particular disease or part of the body. This is also not Google’s first dance with genetic research. The company is also working on a study called Calico that the media has dubbed its “anti-aging” study. That mysterious project was revealed last September and includes major genetic research players like Hal Barron, a former chief medical officer at Genentech.

Baseline is extremely broad in scope and Google wants to expand the study to include thousands of people — which raises questions about privacy.

Participants in the study are anonymous, and their data won’t be shared with insurance companies, according to the WSJ article. Rather, an institutional review board will preside over the human medical research data. As the study ramps up, medical boards at Duke University and Stanford University will determine how to use the information.

The study presents a serious opportunity to help develop better drugs and help people to be the healthiest versions of themselves — and, of course, to help doctors better understand the way the human body operates. But university institutions will have to be firm about patient confidentiality, lest Google tries to sell data to insurers down the road.

After all, plenty of major tech companies are also looking to get in on health care tech.

 

More information:

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12 comments
Nancy Prince
Nancy Prince

AWESOMENESS!!! I'll volunteer. I'm trying to get healthy...mind, body & spirit to have a better life for my son & me...& to overcome personal obstacles which would enable me to be more productive & be a positive contribution to society...especially for my son's future (-=

Thanks for your innovative endeavors in health care. GREAT JOB!! (-=

Tanvir Khandaker
Tanvir Khandaker

Medicine is best left to docs warren Buffett would say circle of competence

Venture Gali
Venture Gali

#Google then we will find out a healthy person should be away from internet #ventureosity

Terry Likens
Terry Likens

You know reverse engineering. ..sadly there are so many examples of unhealthy specimen Interesting

Matthew Giacomazzo
Matthew Giacomazzo

Interested to see how they pull this off because after generations of bypassing natural selection what it is to be human is hugely varied.

Nitin Bansal
Nitin Bansal

What these lazy govt. scientists could not do for decades, Google's gonna do in 2-3 years, may be less. Google is awesomeness!

Richard Banks
Richard Banks

   This is a GREAT piece of news. The medical system is unable to fix itself, and mostly unwilling. It is in "their" best interest to keep systems and progress in disarray. Special interest, nepotism, and control mongers feed off this at the expense of society. Doctors who often aren't able to successfully practice medicine instead end up "practicing administration" -- not good.

     It is only through "thinking-out-of-the-box" from unexpected sources that a major shake up of how it is -- to "what works better" will occur.  The tech sector has my blessing and best wishes on anything it can come up with.  Society needs it; the future depend on it.  At least now maybe the "marketplace" is broken just enough that new solutions will fill the voids. Let us hope.