News | 30 Jun 2021

Long Covid and cancer: How your smartphone is helping scientists

Researchers are heading to their labs to test treatments identified by DreamLab as ones that could help people suffering from Long Covid and cancer.

The DreamLab app from Vodafone Foundation has helped identify potential treatments for COVID-19 and cancer, which researchers will now put to the test in the lab and then in clinical studies.

Rather than running complex calculations and simulations of potential treatments on just one or two supercomputers, medical researchers can instead have them crunched by the tens of thousands of smartphones running the DreamLab app every night. By working together, those smartphones can complete complex calculations far faster than would otherwise be possible.

Over the past year, people running DreamLab on their phones have supported either the Corona-AI or DRUGS (Drug Repositioning Using Grids of Smartphones) projects, searching for ways to treat COVID-19 and cancer respectively. Findings from both projects are now being taken to the next level.

Corona-AI and Long Covid

Vaccines have been rolling out across the UK to protect everyone from the worst effects of COVID-19 and are a key element of fighting this pandemic. But there’s still a pressing need to help those who have recently been infected or suffering from long forms of the COVID-19 disease. Furthermore, newly emerging strains of COVID-19 always pose a risk of making current vaccines less effective. As such, establishing a proper drug or nutrition treatment for COVID-19 remains one of the priorities for researchers at Imperial College London.

The next phase of the Corona-AI project is planning to focus on Long Covid, cases where people continue to suffer symptoms of the disease many months after the initial recovery. Long Covid affects an estimated one million people in the UK alone and while it can have a debilitating effect on people’s quality of life, relatively little is known about the condition. In Imperial’s upcoming Long Covid study, sufferers will be provided with a diet based on food molecules identified by DreamLab-powered research as having therapeutic potential.

Researchers will use various tests to measure what effect they have on two key symptoms reported by Long Covid sufferers – fatigue and post-exertional malaise, which is when other symptoms get worse after physical activity.

Recipes based on the DreamLab-identified ingredients have been collected together in a free cookbook.

DRUGS and cancer

Important progress is also being made in DreamLab’s original mission to find new treatments for cancer. DRUGS Phase 5 examined not only food molecules, but also a vast array of drugs currently used to treat other conditions, far more than would be possible without the collective crowdsourced computing power of DreamLab.

The most promising food-drug combinations identified by DreamLab are now being tested in the lab by four Imperial researchers, to see how effective they are against colorectal and lung cancers. Imperial expects the lab work and full analysis to be completed by early 2022. The results will then be submitted for peer review in a scientific journal and then made freely available for all.

DreamLab: Don’t stop now

While scientists are exploring the findings from the Corona-AI and DRUGS projects in clinical studies and in the lab respectively, DreamLab’s work is far from done. There’s still a huge number of drug-food combinations to be analysed now in Corona-AI, while the next phase of work for DRUGS is being prepared.

Whether you’ve already been diligently plugging in your smartphone and opening DreamLab every night or have yet to download the app, medical researchers and patients need a helping hand from your smartphone.

DreamLab Corona-AI video thumbnail

Credits: Vodafone Foundation

DreamLab is free to download and use, for both iOS and Android.

Stay up-to-date with the very latest news from Vodafone UK by following us on Twitter and signing up for News Centre website notifications.