Google has begun the development of a map of a healthy body. To create this map, Google will accumulate a massive amount of data on real humans, and then they will process the data to establish the norms for a healthy human body. This will then become available online so that both medical personnel and the general public can have the information on how a normal, healthy body works.
Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist, is heading the team of about 100 experts from various fields including biochemistry, physiology, imaging technology, anatomy and molecular biology. The project is meant to provide information about the human body so that preventative medical care can be enhanced. Knowledge about the body and its inner workings in a normal, healthy state is necessary for proactive intervention to maintain a body in good health.
The project is named the Baseline Project. The name reflects the idea that baseline information will be gathered and stored for interactive use as a map of a healthy body. With use of this easily accessible Google map, physicians can guide the patient toward a more healthful goal. The massive computing power available for Google maps will be employed to identify patterns in biochemistry, for example, that trend toward or away from a healthy state.
The database for the development of the Google map of a healthy body will be built on information from thousands of people. Information will include physiological data, biochemical data, genetic information and possibly information on lifestyles. It may include someone’s entire genome, family genetic history, how their metabolism works, how they metabolize drugs and how often their heart beats.
Google has made it clear that this information will not be made available to insurers, for example, or anyone else who might have unsavory motives. Google will make use of Institutional Review Boards to control use of this information. All university and hospitals that are involved in research have an Institutional Review Board that is charged with making sure the research is carried out ethically and according to current laws. The medical schools at Stanford University and Duke University will eventually be in charge of the information after the project is completed.
A concern for the project to create a Google map of a healthy body is to be aware the meaning of the term healthy can change over time. What is considered to be healthy at one time point may not be considered to be healthy at another time point. Project overseers will need to have a plan to monitor new developments in medical research to stay on top of notions of health. Another very important concern is to keep in mind that everyone is different. What may be considered a state of health for one person may not be considered as such for someone else. Different lifestyles, genetic factors, epigenetic factors and the environment on all levels will need to be considered.
It is hard to imagine that most human beings will be able to live a lifestyle confers a perfect state of health. The obligations for individuals to at least attempt to maintain a relatively healthy state will create societal pressures that may be difficult to police, if policing health is desired at all. The creation of a Google map of a healthy body may open the door to many things.
By Margaret Lutze