Google Human, Nanomedicine and Health Trends
Few who saw the 1966 science fiction movie Fantastic Voyage forget the concept of humans, miniaturized, speeding through the bloodstream of a sick man to destroy a life-threatening blood clot. The enlightening images foretold the use of medical nanotechnology and a form of virtual travel, which in the near future may actually accomplish life saving missions.
Scientists already are seriously studying and developing nanoshells, designed to traverse the bloodstream to attack tumors. They envision nanoparticles which can deliver man-made “therapeutic molecules” to weaken and kill deadly growths. NASA has discussed this amazing science, in an article entitled “Voyage of the Nano-Surgeons,” released in 2002. Scientific American recently published an article about the ability of nanoparticles to “penetrate deep within the body.” As this intriguing science develops, we need to actually explore how it will work by virtually seeing it.
Now, a convergence of emerging technologies offers the ultimate journey. Imagine: A middle aged patient is told by his physician he has a tumor in the central canal of the spinal cord. What does it look like? Exactly where is it? What structures surround it? Just what would be done from a surgical standpoint? Anatomical experts can join with Google to image the pathway to the tumor, and literally show the microscopic roadmap that could lead to the patient’s survival. We can even graphically image how different medicines might interact with the tumor with or without robotic intervention in a computer simulation.
With all the published anatomical atlases and scores of credible web site video presentations about medicine and health, there is an opportunity to take patient knowledge to the next level and disburse it planet-wide. If Google can map the Earth with aerial views, if it can map Mars, if it can explore the depth of the oceans, it clearly has the opportunity to chart the once inexplicable inner universe. We should be able to virtually travel through human anatomy to gain a new level of understanding of our health conditions and treatment options. Call it “Google Human,” which can show us from the inside, at an atomic and cellular level, what organs, molecular body structures and growths look like, their geography and their anticipated reactions to therapies and medicines. If we can imagine such medical science in a 43 year old movie, we can clearly achieve digital virtual reality travel inside the bloodstream to points of interest that concern the health of every human being.
Animations, such as those shown on this page, are just the beginning. With advances in medical knowledge and the use of “nano-cameras” which explore living cells, Google Human can be updated with actual images as new explorations are made. Patients can report areas within the body that trouble them to their physicians, enabling informed after-hours virtual house calls. Patient generated electronic histories using this form of visualization can be recorded in digital records to track a patient’s on-going health condition and posted to the already existing Google Health. Different imaged systems and structures of the body can link to medical videos, articles and webinars. Yes, even medical and health ads can support the growth of such a project.
But that’s not all. By integrating Google Trends with anatomical search results on Google Human, medical scientists may be able to detect geographic locations across the globe where one type of disease or medical issue is concentrated, thus providing a sort of “early alert system” for health officials. Why not? Google Trends already searches and analyzes flu trends. That’s just the beginning. Why not chart the incidence of cancers, based upon Google Human searches, to detect the presence of negative environmental agents? On another level, think how much more exciting biology and anatomy classes would be to students if they could travel the body from within at high digital resolution.
The famed physician Frank H. Netter, one of the premier anatomists, once said of his Atlas of Human Anatomy, “In creating an atlas such as this, it is important to achieve a happy medium between complexity and simplification.” To that end, he achieved, with stunning clarity, a printed realism of the spectacular human mechanism. With Google Human, human kind can enter the next dimension of anatomical study, research and treatment and embark on a voyage exponentially greater than “fantastic.”
Update: Please see our April 18 piece entitled “The AlloSphere…Postscript to Google Human.”