Healthcare innovation

DreamLab app supports Imperial Researchers in Long…

DreamLab app supports Imperial Researchers in Long…

Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app will support researchers at Imperial College London to use AI and machine learning to uncover how dietary biomolecules and phytochemically rich “hyperfoods” can help to fight Long COVID. 

One of the first studies exploring the link between biomolecules in the foods we eat and Long COVID, the research has been made possible through Vodafone Foundation’s free and secure app DreamLab. The app uses your smartphone’s idle processing power to analyse complex data on behalf of the researchers while you sleep.

Dr Kirill Veselkov, assistant professor at Imperial College London, is leading a team of researchers at the university to develop critical analysis for Long COVID as part of the new ‘DreamLab Long COVID project.’ The DreamLab mobile supercomputing technology has previously helped to uncover hundreds of biomolecules in foods against specific types of cancers and COVID-19. Combining the processing power of tens of thousands of smartphones, the DreamLab app reduces the time taken to analyse such vast amounts of data. While it would have taken decades using traditional computing methods, the cloud-based network can crunch the same amount of data in months.

Dr Veselkov said: “For us to understand the impact of complex combinations of thousands of biomolecules in the food we eat on Long COVID using traditional experimental methods is impossible – it would be like using a bicycle to explore the galaxy.

“Our project takes a radically different approach while uniting the public in one large citizen science AI project. It explores the “dark matter” of nutrition against long COVID beyond the traditional analysis of five major nutrition categories (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals). Everyone can contribute with their smartphone to this important piece of scientific research without having to be a professional scientist.”

Andrew Dunnett, director, Vodafone Foundation, added: “As the pandemic continues to have a major impact on public health, I’m delighted that DreamLab users will now have the opportunity to help the scientific community fight Long COVID. Thanks to the 2.2m volunteers who have downloaded DreamLab to date, and the active users who enable Imperial College London’s vital research.”

Over 1.8 million people in the UK alone may be suffering from long-lasting symptoms after the coronavirus infection has gone, sometimes called “Long COVID.” Symptoms of Long COVID include extreme tiredness, breathing problems, insomnia and ‘brain fog’, leaving many sufferers unable to work or live normal lives. While Long COVID has become increasingly prevalent in society, little scientific research exists on the condition.

A research paper from 2021 highlights some of the surprising initial findings from Imperial’s previous COVID-19 research using DreamLab, which suggest:

  • Everyday foods may be enhanced by biomolecules with predicted anti-COVID-19 properties. Findings suggest that certain plant-based foods (such as blackcurrants, blueberries, apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, parsley, and beans) are most enriched in terms of diversity and abundance of these molecules.
  • Existing medicines for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders could be ‘repurposed’ to fight COVID-19.

The research project launches today and is expected to be completed in late 2023. Results will be made available to the research community to support clinical trials. For instance, precision nutrition strategies designed with phytochemically-rich “Hyperfoods” could translate into dietary advice for patients recovering from Long COVID.