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Introduction to Bioinformatics – The Field of Science and Computer Information

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/29/2008

Scientists and researchers use bioinformatics to store genetic information of different species and be able to access and compare the data to answer biological questions

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    When you hear the word bioinformatics, you may associate it to something sounding like a branch of science, and that is correct. It is actually a combination of different branches of studies are rolled into one. It incorporates the research methods and studies of biology, mathematics, information technology, computer science and chemistry and applies them all to a concentrated focus of study, which is known as bioinformatics.

    Along with the term bioinformatics, there is another term that is closely related called computational biology. They are very similar, but bioinformatics actually better represents the creation and use of mathematical algorithms, statistical techniques, and scientific theories in order to solve problems that have came about by the management of biological information.

    Computational biology is usually more related to the hypotheses research and studies of a specific problem by the use of computers. Computational biology is more closely related to hypotheses and bioinformatics is more closely related to the information that is being studied and the DNA and protein sequences that are present in different species.

    The need for bioinformatics has been an increasing field of study because all of the studies that are done on protein sequences and DNA become information that needs to be stored and housed in a database. This database needs to be intelligent enough to allow for the storage and accessibility of biological information to scientists who are studying it. It became a very complicated problem to simply try to manual study and analyze DNA information, therefore there needed to be computer programs created that would be able to access and search thousands of records on genomes and species and retrieve the information that was needed to answer a specific biological question.

    The programs that were created and that are being used in the storage of biological data became known as bioinformatics. Scientists and researches hope to use the methods of bioinformatics to be able to more accurately and closely study the genetic information of species and the DNA protein sequences that exist in different species. By analyzing this data, they want to be able to determine how the sequences have been altered or changed over time due to evolutionary reasons. Once they can determine how the sequences were altered or changed, they hope to be able to determine when these changes in the sequences took place.

    Ultimately, they want to be able to see where and when disease took place within the genetic information and be able to figure out what caused it to happen. They are able to use bioinformatics to store all genetic information of species so that they can compare sequences in DNA between two species to determine how similar or different they are, and if they have become more similar or more different over time. The goals of bioinformatics are many, and scientists believe that they will be able to further make advances in the information studied and the databases that house the important information.