Google is seeking to patent a technology that would enable the needle-less drawing of blood for the medical testing of patients with diabetes and other health conditions.
The company's patent application, published Dec. 3, described the technology as a pneumatic particle accelerator designed to shoot a micro particle through a small, hollow tube with enough velocity to "imperceptibly" break the skin and draw a minute amount of blood for testing.
The device will apparently be small enough to be integrated into a wristband or a smartwatch. It could also work as a handheld device of about the size of a pencil or a typical hypodermic needle-carrying barrel.
According to Google, the technology offers a way to extract blood without any of the discomfort associated with puncturing the skin with a needle or a lancet. "Generally, the smaller the puncture, the smaller the degree of discomfort that may accompany a blood draw," Google's patent application noted.
While needles and lancets used for blood draw purposes have become smaller in diameter and thus less uncomfortable to use, they can only get so small before they become impractical, Google said. The patent application covers a device and technique for the "medical extraction of blood that can imperceptibly pierce dermal tissue without a piercing element," the company said.
The Stack was the first to report on Google's patent application.
The technology described in the application could be years away from commercialization. Even so, it highlights the growing investments that the company has begun making in the health care space, an area that some think holds huge revenue potential for Google.
When Google announced its business reorganization earlier this year, its Life Science's group, which is where most of its health initiatives are, was one of the first businesses to be carved out as a separate company under the Alphabet umbrella.
The group is involved in several major health-related projects, most notably those involving the treatment and care of people with diabetes. One example is its effort with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to develop a smart contact lens technology that would be capable of detecting blood sugar levels in diabetes patients from their tears. The first human tests of the smart contact lens are expected to begin in 2016.
Similarly, Google earlier this year said it would work with French firm Sanofi to find new ways of managing diabetes. As part of the collaboration, Google is working on applying its expertise in the area of big data analytics to study massive volumes of data related to diabetes care and treatment. The company is also working with DexCom of San Diego to build small, low-cost, disposable continuous glucose level monitoring tools for diabetes patients.
Google's health-related projects extend to areas well beyond diabetes management. The company has a partnership with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon to develop minimally invasive surgical instruments. It has a similar arrangement with Lift Labs to develop smart spoon technology for people with hand tremors caused by diseases like Parkinson's and other neurological disorders.
In addition to these initiatives, Google also has invested in Calico, a life sciences company led by a former chief executive of biotech firm Genentech and other senior executives from the firm. Last year, Calico and AbbVie announced they would co-invest up to $1.5 billion in a research and development facility focused on age-related diseases and cancer.