Smartphone network helps uncover hundreds of anti-cancer molecules in food

July 5, 2019

Researchers at Imperial College London have used artificial intelligence to crunch huge volumes of data on a “cloud computing” network of smartphones to uncover anti-cancer properties of foods. The team, led by Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery & Cancer, has worked with the Vodafone Foundation, makers of the DreamLab app that uses the collective power of smartphones to fast-track cancer research, to carry out the research.

The latest findings from the project, published in the journal Scientific Reports, used the platform to analyze data on the molecular content of more than 8,000 everyday foods, identifying more than 110 cancer-fighting molecules. Many of these molecules are flavonoids, the huge class of compounds that help to give fruit and vegetables their color. This in turn was used to construct a “food map” with anti-cancer potential of each ingredient defined by the number of cancer-beating molecules found therein. “Our analysis underpins the design of next-generation cancer preventative and therapeutic nutrition strategies,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers say further work is now needed to confirm any clinical properties of the molecules identified in the foods. They hope to further explore different combinations of food molecules, using AI simulations to look at the potential impact they might have on cancer.

“This is a ground breaking moment for us. The next step is to use AI technologies to explore the impact that different combinations of drugs and food-based molecules could have on individuals,” said lead researcher Veselkov. “We have built a team of molecular gastronomists, computer scientists, biochemical/microbiota scientists, sensory scientists, Michelin star chefs, health economists, and clinicians to advance the next phase of the project.”

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