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Bioinformatics – The Emerging Field in Science Yields New Discoveries

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

The world of bioinformatics is gaining in popularity and expansion in the scientific world. Scientists and researchers have only begun to tap into the powers of this new branch of science that combines biology, mathematics, computer science and information technology all in one.

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    With all of the advancements and discoveries that have been made by studying genetic information and DNA, there became the need to have a store house to keep all of this information safe and secure as well as be able to access, sort and utilize the information quickly and when needed.

    For this reason, there came about the idea of having a database that is capable of holding bioinformatics findings and allows users to draw on it to answer specific biology questions. The findings that have taken place by studying DNA and protein sequences needed a place to be recorded and that would keep the precious information and data safe.

    There are three key concepts in bioinformatics:

    1. Data Representation – DNA is not clearly arranged in human genes, it is coated with certain proteins that tend to bind to different sequences and this makes a sort of blueprint that biologists have to read. DNA is represented as a helix and is three dimensional. Yet as complex as DNA sequences are, there are only 4 characters used to differentiate the molecules – A, C, G and T.
    2. Similarity – evolution conserves the genes that are responsible for coding proteins and other important sequences that serve useful functions when being transferred from one organism to another. It has been found that certain organisms have similar sequences due to evolution.
    3. Bioinformatics is not a theory based science – bioinformatics, apart from other branches of science, is not based on theories, but is based on data that is gathered from researching and studies. It is truly based on information that is gathered instead of proposed theories used in many forms of science.

    The kind of information that is stored for bioinformatics includes genetic comparisons between species. The more that scientists and researchers study and compare the genetic sequences, the more similarities that they are finding. By being able to store all this information into a system is critical to the future success of the field. It is through the advancements in technology that bioinformatics has come so far in only a few years, and the future looks good for continuing to learn more about how DNA sequences work.

    Another kind of comparison that will be done is comparing the genome of humans to other humans. By doing this kind of study and comparison, scientists are able to learn what makes one person different from another person. These kinds of advancements in bioinformatics call for an even greater need for the ability of a system that will hold and gather information. The sequences of people can be stored in the system, and scientists are able to draw upon that information to make their comparisons.

    With the introduction of DNA sequencing that became automated in the 90’s, the amount of data that was available was greatly increased. The more research and studies that are being completed, the more data is being created. This opens up the door to career paths for aspiring bioinformatics professionals. There looks to be no shortage in jobs in the years to come for scientists, computer engineers and programmers, information technology and mathematic based careers. The field of bioinformatics is a highly skilled job field due to the amount of different kinds of knowledge that a person needs to have in order to succeed.