Computers and the associated technology have become indispensable in this day and age. Useful in various areas of leisure, entertainment, commerce, industry, and science, computers have proven especially valuable in biological research, where information technology is a core component of a specific scientific field known as bioinformatics.
What is bioinformatics?
Bioinformatics involves the use of computer technology in biological information management. In this field of study, computers are routinely used in the gathering, storing, analysis, and integration of biological and genetic information. This information is then utilized in the discovery and development of gene-based drugs.
Bioinformatics essentially helps scientists visualize protein structures which are otherwise invisible to humans. With bioinformatics, scientists are able to examine these structures and to find out about more about how they function. This may lead to a clearer understanding and the discovery of clues as to how organisms work, how life developed and how new disease treatments can be developed.
The structure of bioinformatics
Bioinformatics relies on centralized databases that are accessible to the global scientific community. With access to these databases, scientists have the opportunity to submit, search and analyze information relevant to their needs. Bioinformatics also provides software that can be used for the analysis of data study and comparison, as well as tools for data modeling, visualization, exploration, and interpretation.
Bioinformatics technology may offer clues to scientific mysteries for which the answers have eluded science for hundreds of years. This particular technology has been used to gain a deeper understanding of DNA, the life code, and other aspects of living organisms. With bioinformatics, scientists have access to new methods for the storage, analysis, and visualization of information, enabling the obtaining of knowledge that enhances human life.
Bioinformatics and the Human Genome Project
The usefulness of bioinformatics has come to the fore with the increase in genomic information made available to the public by way of the Human Genome Project. This project was intended to determine the sequence of the human genome–composed of appropriately three billion base pairs–in its entirely.
Bioinformatics basically involves the combination of molecular biology and computer science. This technology has been proven to be invaluable for utilizing genomic information with the goal of understanding diseases, and identifying new molecular targets that can point to the way for the discovery and development of new drugs.
Acknowledging the value of bioinformatics, a number of universities, government institutions, and pharmaceutical companies have established bioinformatics groups. Comprising computational biologists and computer scientists with backgrounds specific to bioinformatics, these groups work to manage the immense collection of information that is the result of global sequencing projects continuously taking place in research laboratories in many countries around the world.
Gathering information is only one part of the equation. In order to be useful for biological and genetic study, there needs to be a concerted effort to manage, organize, analyze, and make sense of all the data obtained. This is what the field of bioinformatics provides, and with its implementation, we may yet come closer to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of many of life’s most unfathomable mysteries.