What is Bioinformatics? Explained Easy

Wiki introduces Bioinformatics as “Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data.”

But in simple words it’s the conjunction of Digital and Biological i.e. usage of Computers for the purpose of understanding different organisms and their Evolutionary Biology.

No, you won’t be becoming Jessica Jones or Luke Cage anytime soon but it is in use for increasing crop growth, medicine etc.

Further expanding the definition, Bioinformatics include the collection, storage, retrieval and manipulation and modeling of data for analysis, visualization or prediction through the development of algorithms and software.

The term was first coined in 1970 by Paulien Hogeweg and Ben Hesper.

If you are thinking how the hell the computer in 1970 were able to sustain the load of such a complex task?

You are going on the correct track. And the simple answer would be; they weren’t!

The term in 1970 was coined for the study of information process in biotic systems, which was parallel to biochemistry, but over time the definition has evolved.

Let’s brush up our Biology before going further.

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Pictorial Representation of What’s inside a cell. Also detail about DNA and its components.

Each Multicellular Organism contains Cells. Each Cell contains a nucleus. And each nucleus contains DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid. Different part of DNA is collectively called Gene and units of Genes are known as Chromosomes.

DNA is a double helix structure of two compimantary RNA, which contains Nucleic Acids, Proteins, Lipids, and complex Carbohydrates.

Every organism has a different set and number of Chromosomes and also a different order of Nucleotides.

hese pairing says a lot about an Organism’s Evolutionary History and its close relatives (in terms of species).

To determine the order of nucleotides in DNA, a process known as DNA sequencing is used.

DNA sequencing was performed around the early 1970s and used a complex method of chromatography. The result was then recorded by hand, which was exhausting and also prone to error.

Now, this is where computers and Bioinformatics come in. Computers are an essential part of DNA sequencing. Comparing multiple DNA sequences manually is not really practical because of above-mentioned problems.

So, now you will be like, ok DNA sequencing is cool and all. But how does it affect my day to day life? Isn’t the article about Bioinformatics?

And my answer for the later would be Yes but to understand it better we need to know what DNA sequencing and other stuff is.

For the former I would say keep reading!!

Applications Of Bioinformatics

Although Bioinformatics doesn’t have applications in many aspects of our life, but wherever it is applied; it’s Important!!

Medicine

bioinformatics
Typical array of Pills

I said it was important, so to prove my point here is the first application Medicine.

Bioinformatics is used for Drug Discovery, Personalized Medication, Preventive Medication, and Gene Therapy.

Intrigued? Me too. Let me explain each of them, just be patient 😜

Drug Discovery is pretty self-explanatory, I guess. It’s used for discovering and making improvements in drugs and cure of diseases.

Personalized Medication is the personalization of medication, Duh! By the use of genetic information of a patient, Doctors can customize the healthcare according to them.

Preventive Medication is a little bit unclear to me too! I have been searching it on google for a while now. But in essence, its just preventive measure taken to prevent disease rather than curing their symptoms.

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Diagrammatic Representation of Gene Therapy

You may want to check out this link for more information about Preventive medication and any other application.

Gene Therapy is the therapeutic delivery of nucleic acid into a patient’s cells as a drug to treat disease. This may include the addition of new genes and the removal of harmful ones.

Microbial Genome Applications

Well, this is a fancy topic, Right?

Let me explain the meaning of this first. Because this may be intimidating.

The study of genome is known as Genomics. You maybe thinking what is genome now?

Genome is the complete set of genetic material including various type of DNA’s. Yes there are many type of DNA i came to know about it just now.

We will not go into detail about Types of DNA but you can read about it here.

Microbial Genome includes an enormous diversity of bacteria, archaea (these are basically bacteria with no nuclei) and lower eukaryotes (an organism whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes).

So now, basics clear? Let’s dive right into the topic.

I will beginning from one of my favourite topics, Biotechnology.

bioinformatics

Biotechnology is modifying living organisms and plants (literally) according to Human purposes. It sounds controversial?

Well, it is. There are dozen of ethical debates on this topic specifically “Bioinformatics” as a whole. But that’s for the later part of this article.

Biotechnology is used to alter genes of plants and some organisms also known as genetic engineering, to give them disease resistance for example.

One of the many and unexpected application of Bioinformatics is Alternative Energy.

Yes I know noone right now is using it for actual Alternative but this may be a technology of the future. Who knows?

There is this particular type of microbe, which i will not try to spell it, that generates energy from light. With an efficiency way above what we have been able to reach with our silicon based solar panels.

I am saying this again if you require any more info about the application you may want to check this link.

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A graphic representation of D.Radionuran because you won’t like it’s actual picture 😆

The last topic is Waste Cleanup. Because who likes Cleanup?

Bacteria and some other microbes are used to cleanup waste. For example, a bacteria named D. radiodurans is used for breaking down organic chemicals, solvents and heavy metals too.

This bacteria also holds “The toughest bacteria” world record in Guinness Book of World Record, meaning it is Officially Amazing!

Human Genome Project

Human Genome Project is one of the major project under Bioinformatics. Researcher aimed to determine the sequence of nucleotide pairs that made human DNA, also identifying and mapping all the genes of Human Genome.

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That’s why it’s name Human Genome Project. It was launched in 1990 and completed in April of 2003.

Categorized as one of the world’s largest collaborative biological project, this project mapped about 20,5000 human genes.

HGP has given the world a resource of detailed information about the structure, organization and function of the complete set of human genes.

This information can be thought of as the basic set of inheritable “instructions” for the development and function of a human being.

The tools created through the HGP also continue to inform efforts to characterize the entire genomes of several other organisms used extensively in biological research, such as mice, fruit flies and flatworms. 

Not enough information to fill your brain yet? Check out this article by US National Library of Medicine.

Ethics And Bioinformatics

It’s a relieve coming to the last topic of a 1000+ words article. So here we go, the Ethics in Bioinformatics.

Having second thoughts, I am gonna copy the Ethics and Conclusion part from this amazing research published by Suhair Amer, Southeast Missouri State University. You could check it out here, Hope it’s cool with the publisher.😊

Most new ideas are met with controversy, and bioinformatics and computational genomics have not been an exception.

Some believe that using bioinformatics and computational genomics is not unethical because of the potential health benefits, such as gene therapy. Others see it as invasive and threatening to individual privacy and rights.

The term “bioethics” was first used to deal with the application of moral philosophy to medical dilemmas. It emerged because there was a need to reflect philosophically on the problems related to modern medicine.

Biotechnology partnered with computer technology affects many aspects of our physical and social lives which lead to concerns regarding computer and applied ethics.

Conclusion

Bioinformatics is a promising field with the potential to be developed further into a larger opportunity for both computer scientists and biologists. Excellent working examples have been developed and is in use.

In summary, bioinformatics and computational genomics have drastically improved the exploration of hereditary qualities, biotechnology, and medicine. We now have the advancements needed to discover new medications and drugs.

I am an engineering student in NSUT, formerly NSIT. Currently living in New Delhi and hope to live here till my last breath. I am a technology nerd and a photographer. I also love reading books while cuddled in my blanket, although I don't get enough time to read.

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