What is Bioinformatics ?
Bioinformatics is the field of science in which Biology, computer science, and information technology merge into single discipline. It is also a science of managing and analyzing biological data using advanced computer techniques.
The term bioinformatics was coined by Paulien Hogeweg and Ben Hesper in 1978 for the study of informatic processes in biotic systems. Its primary use since at least the late 1980s has been in genomics and genetics, particularly in those areas of genomics involving large-scale DNA sequencing.
Bioinformatics involves close relation between biology and computers that influence each other and synergistically merging more than once. The variety of data from biology, mainly in the form of DNA, RNA, protein sequences is putting heavy demand in computer sciences and computational biology. It is demanding transformation of basic ethos of biological sciences.
The Bioinformaticians are those who specialize in use of computational tools and systems to answer problems in biology. They include computer scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, engineers and biologists who specialize in developing algorithms, theories and techniques for such tools and systems. Bioinformatics has also taken on a new glitter by entering the field of drug discovery in a big way. System biology promises great growth in modeling silver line using engineering approach with close relation with biology. Bioinformatic techniques have been developed to identify and analyze various components of cells such as gene and protein function, interactions and metabolic and regulatory pathways. The next decade will belong to understanding cellular mechanism and cellular manipulation using the integration of bioinformatics, wet lab, and cell simulation techniques.
Bioinformatics has focus on cellular and molecular levels of biology and has a wide application in life sciences. Current research in bioinformatics can be classified into: (i) genomics—sequencing and comparative study of genomes to identify gene and genome functionality, (ii) proteomics—identification and characterization of protein related properties, (iii) cell visualization and simulation to study and model cell behavior, and (iv) application to the development of drugs and anti-microbial agents. Bioinformatics also offers many interesting possibilities for bioremediation from environment protection point of view. The integration of biodegradation information, with the corresponding protein and genomic data, provides a suitable framework for
studying the global properties of the bioremediation network. This discipline requires the integration of huge amount of data from various sources—
Chemical structure and reactivity of organic compounds, sequence, structure and function of proteins (enzymes), comparative genomics, environment microbiology and so on. Bioinformatics has the following major branches: Genomics, Proteomics, Computer Aided Drug Designing, Biodatabase and Data Mining, Molecular Phylogenetics, Microarray informatics and System biology. Thus, bioinformatics has focused on cellular and molecular levels of biology and has a wide application in life sciences and environment protection.
The study and understanding of cell is prime concern for bioinformatics.
There are two fundamental ways of modeling a Biological system (e.g. living cell) both coming under Bioinformatic approaches.
o Sequences – Proteins, Nucleic acids and Peptides
o Structures – Proteins, Nucleic acids, Ligands (including metabolites and drugs) and Peptides
o Interaction data among the above entities including microarray data and Networks of proteins, metabolites
o Systems Biology comes under this category including reaction fluxes and variable concentrations of metabolites
o Multi-Agent Based modeling approaches capturing cellular events such as signaling, transcription and reaction dynamics
As a result of surge in data, computers have become indispensable to biological research. Such an approach is ideal because of the ease with which computers can handle large quantities of data and probe the complex dynamics observed in nature. This unexpected union between the two subjects is largely attributed to the fact that life itself is an information technology; an organism’s physiology is largely determined by its genes, which at its most basic can be viewed as digital information.
At the same time, there have been major advances in the technologies that supply the initial data; Anthony Kerlavage of Celera recently cited that an experimental laboratory can produce over 100 gigabytes of data a day with ease. This incredible processing power has been matched by developments in computer technology; the most important areas of improvements have been in the CPU, disk storage and Internet, allowing faster computations, better data storage and revolutionalised the methods for accessing and exchanging data.