In 2013, TIME reported on how Google (pre-Alphabet name change) was launching a new unit called Calico that would “focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.” The magazine’s cover posed the provocative question: “Can Google Solve Death?” Information has been scarce on the company’s anti-aging efforts since then, save for the occasional press release about partnerships with biotechs or brief statements about Calico researchers probing the way cells mature and age. Now, we’re finally getting more details on what the science looks like.
Click here to subscribe to Brainstorm Health Daily, our brand new newsletter about health innovations.
On Wednesday, Calico chief computing officer Daphne Koller offered some more details during a conference hosted by CB Insights, Axios reports. Koller explained that the current research, which is in its earliest stages, is being done on mouse models—including 750 mice segregated into five groups with different diets. The idea here is to explore how caloric intake influences overall health. (A major recent global health study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was one of the first to pinpoint how poor diet and nutrition has an outsize effect on life expectancy and quality of life.) Furthermore, Calico scientists are tracking the growth of yeast cells to probe how cellular aging affects the behavior of cells, and how they begin to break down.
The question now is how such research will ultimately translate into potential treatments for humans. It’s one thing to continuously monitor mouse and yeast cells to pinpoint the exact moment when diet or cell aging affects overall health, but translating that research to human subjects proves a lot more complicated.