In the attempt of the world’s scientists to understand genetics Bioinformatics is a huge component. Research into genomes and human genome sequencing lays the groundwork for the development of gene-based drug interventions for many diseases that ravage the globe. This research is being performed by scientists worldwide, and compiled into pockets, or libraries of data that hold the key to other discoveries. The task of assimilating that data and making it readily available is given to this science.
Defining the Science
According to the website bioplanet, bioinformatics is the “application of computer technology to the management of biological information.” Computers are used to collect, store and manage biological data from research, much like a librarian manages information on books in a library, so that the biological data is available to other researchers as the basis for further study and discovery. Much of the foundation of the discipline has been forged by the Human Genome Project.
What is the Human Genome Project?
This was a world-wide initiative that was completed in 2003. The goal of the project was to study and identify the entire human genome sequence. A single strand of human DNA, stretched out, would be a thin thread about six feet long, and there are many strands to map and study. The DNA is made up of chemical-based pairs that form genes. The Human Genome Project determined to identify all the genes and map them. The results of the project were assimilated into a database that is available to the public. Applications of the information are in pharmaceutical development, in genetics testing and in prenatal interventions, among other areas. The bio-information technology was invaluable to the project because the research was performed by many scientists in many countries and stored in separate systems. The data had to be assimilated and cataloged to make it easily accessible and to limit duplication of research.
What Data is Collected?
Britannica.com says information collected includes DNA sequencing, or how the genes fit on the DNA strand, amino acid sequencing, the “three-dimensional structure of proteins,” nucleic acids and protein nucleic acids. There is also data referencing RNA synthesis and the results of other research at the cellular level.
The goal of assimilating all this data is to allow scientists that are looking for things like drugs that will work at the molecular level, or how proteins interact to access the information without having to do all the research themselves. Scientists may also develop new applications using “old” data.
The major biological database is the Worldwide Protein Data Bank that is operated by several countries including the US. Two of the current goals of the science of biological informatics are developing efficient algorithms that can measure similarity in sequences and the prediction of interaction between proteins. Studying how proteins bond might lead to the development of an antibody that would bond to a certain protein to protect someone from a disease.
While developments in DNA study have created a universal interest in genetics and researching our own genetic “roots,” most people will not think beyond their own histories or have any reason to access the genome data bank. That is how the data bank began as well, with a narrow focus of developing algorithms that could speed study of gene and protein sequences. Today, though, Bioinformatics is researching how different kinds of data can be used together to understand organisms, disease and other natural phenomena in our world.