Google is planning to collect data from 175 participants in a new study to attempt to create a statistical standard for what is considered a healthy person, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The data collected in this study, called Project Baseline, will presumably be used at some point in the future to monitor technology users for any signs of potential medical issues and alert them.
In the study, which will eventually be expanded to thousands of participants, Google X’s Dr. Andrew Conrad and a team of as many as 100 scientists in varying fields will collect anonymous molecular and genetic data in order to determine the idea traits of a healthy individual. These samples will come in the form of tissue, tears, urine, and more which will be collected this summer.
Google’s new smart contact lens, which can be used to constantly monitor the wearer’s glucose level, is also expected to be used to collect data for the study at some point.
The doctors leading the project concede that due to our collective relative ignorance of the human body’s finest details, the entire plan may end up being a bust:
Dr. Conrad and Dr. Gambhir admit that the project is a giant leap into the unknown. That’s because the human body is so complex and so little is known about the interplay between DNA, enzymes and proteins and how environmental factors like diet influence this. The initiative may reveal biomarkers that tell researchers little about diseases, for instance.
While some concern about how this data could be used by insurance companies and others exists, Google says it has no intention of ever allowing the information it collects to be used for anything other than consumer health applications. A board comprised of doctors from Duke and Stanford University will have control over the project once it exits the pilot stage, including what happens to the data.
Google will be using third-party medical clinics to collect the data, and will never actually receive any identifying information along with the samples. Google will have access to completely anonymous information that includes the patient’s entire genome, parents’ genetic history, and much more.
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