A few decades ago, Computers and Biology were considered entirely two different fields of science.
But recently, experienced massive growth of Data from high throughputs biological experiments such as genomic sequencing, proteomics, microbiome, and clinical data, yield a new field of science so-called Bioinformatics.
- 1 What is Bioinformatics?
- 2 What can be done in Bioinformatics?
- 3 Bioinformatics Applications
- 3.1 Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
- 3.2 Bioinformatics and Medical informatics
- 3.3 Careers in Bioinformatics
- 3.4 Featured Academic Programs
- 4 Tools and Software In Bioinformatics
- 5 Ethical Concern of Bioinformatics
What is Bioinformatics?
Bio + informatics = Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is a branch of biology that develops methods and software tools (i.e., algorithms and databases) to understand and effectively use of Biological Data.
It involves the storage, analysis, distribution, and retrieving of biological information.
The term bioinformatics was coined by Paulien Hogeweg and Ben Hesper to describe “the study of informatic processes in biotic systems.”
NIH definition of Bioinformatics:
“Research, development, and application of computational tools and approaches for expanding the use of biological, medical, behavioural, and health data, including the means to acquire, store, organize, archive, analyze, or visualize such data.”
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field.
Bioinformatics is a highly interdisciplinary combining different fields of science, including; biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics, and statistics, that aim to analyze and interpret biological information.
What can be done in Bioinformatics?
- Analysis and Interpretation – of various biological and clinical data, i.e., nucleotides (both RNA & DNA) and amino acid (protein) sequences. Moreover, also protein domains and structures.
- Development of new Software tools and statistics – with which to analyze biological information such as measuring sequence similarity among members of the large data set.
- Implementation of Tools – allows efficient storage, management, and retrieving of data information, i.e., Databases and integrated mapping information.
An extensive list of bioinformatics tools is based on AI, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, e.g., Recently, Google Deep Learning library called TensorFlow.
Bio-informatics has a vast application in genomics, molecular research, and biomedical sciences.
- Sequence Analysis – of DNA, RNA, and Proteins.
- Prediction of protein structure – from the amino acid sequences while keeping in mind various factors such as hydrogen bonding, shape, polarity, hydrophobicity, and more.
- Genome annotation – helps in the identification of genes location along with the other coding regions on a genome and determining what these genes do.
- Comparative genomics – comparing and analysis of the genetic materials among different species, helps in studying of functions of genes, their mode of inheritance, and species evolution.
- Drug discovery – bioinformatics tools could be used to understand better the mechanisms of the disease, such as identifying the responsible gene sequence, hence to find new drug targets.
- Pharmacogenomics – Validate new drug targets and to tailor the medicines to the patients that act on the case/disease origin rather than on the symptoms. Perhaps, could develop drugs with even better therapeutic properties than the existing ones.
Other vital areas of bio-informatics include; biological databases, molecular phylogenetics, personalized medicines, metabolomics, and transcriptomics (analysis of RNA expression).
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Bioinformatics is the creation and application of tools (algorithms, database) that solves all kinds of biological data.
While Computational Biology is the development and application of analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to study the biological data.
Bioinformatics and Medical informatics
Medical informatics is distinct – it involves the design, creation, and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare such as health management, planning, service delivery, etc.
Careers in Bioinformatics
It is predicted that in the near future, there will be a considerable need for researchers to have bioinformatics skills.
Video: Maria Nattestad on Bioinformatics. Also, she explains the similarities between Bioinformatics and Data Science. And three approaches in bioinformatics.
Featured Academic Programs
- Northeastern University – offers an online master’s in bioinformatics degree
- Harvard University Extension School
- University of Illinois
- Rochester Institute of Technology.
Tools and Software In Bioinformatics
- Bioinformatics Software and Tools
- National Center for Toxicological Research List of Tools for Bioinformatics Research
- Wikipedia List of Open-Source Bioinformatics Software
Ethical Concern of Bioinformatics
Along with rapid increases in biological and genomic data comes with privacy and security concerns too. It is because the genomic information is the ultimate identification tool.
Although extensive genomic data helps researchers to understand and find disease treatment, however, it also brought the fear of discrimination and privacy loss.
So, there should be a standard to protect the identity of individuals.