User:I K SINGH/Introduction to Bioinformatics

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(Comment.gif: Good beginning - Maybe you could format this a little - bold, ital, give titles, subtitles etc and put in some links, colors etc. maybe a picture? savi 15:43, 16 April 2009 (UTC)) Bioinformatics is that branch of life science, which deals with the study of application of information technology to the field of molecular biology. The term bioinformatics was coined by Paulien Hogeweg in 1978 for the study of informatics processes in biotic systems. Bioinformatics nowadays entails the creation and advancement of databases, algorithms, computational and statistical techniques, and theory to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of biological data. Over the past few decades rapid developments in genomic and other molecular research technologies combined developments in information technologies have combined to produce a tremendous amount of information related to molecular biology. It is the name given to these mathematical and computing approaches used to glean understanding of biological processes. Common activities in Bioinformatics include mapping and analyzing DNA and protein sequences, aligning different DNA and protein sequences to compare them and creating and viewing 3-D models of protein structures.

In the last few decades, advances in molecular biology and the equipment available for research in this field have allowed the increasingly rapid sequencing of large portions of the genomes of several species. In fact, to date, several bacterial genomes, as well as those of some eukaryotes (e.g., baker's yeast, Human, Mouse, Arabidopsis, Rice etc.) have been sequenced completely. Popular sequence databases, such as GenBank and EMBL, have been growing at exponential rates. Add to this the data from the myriad of related projects that study gene expression, determine the protein structures encoded by the genes, and detail how these products interact with one another, and we can begin to imagine the enormous quantity and variety of information that is being produced. This deluge of information has necessitated the careful storage, organization and indexing of sequence information. As a result, 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. Bioinformatics is often defined as the application of computational techniques to understand and organize the information associated with biological macromolecules. This unexpected union between the two subjects is 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 Kervalage 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.

Bioinformatics was applied in the creation and maintenance of a database to store biological information at the beginning of the "genomic revolution", such as nucleotide and amino acid sequences. Development of this type of database involved not only design issues but the development of complex interfaces whereby researchers could both access existing data as well as submit new or revised data. The process of evolution has produced DNA sequences that encode proteins with very specific functions. It is possible to predict the three-dimensional structure of a protein using algorithms that have been derived from our knowledge of physics, chemistry and most importantly, from the analysis of other proteins with similar amino acid sequences. In order to study how normal cellular activities are altered in different disease states, the biological data must be combined to form a comprehensive picture of these activities. Therefore, the field of bioinformatics has evolved such that the most pressing task now involves the analysis and interpretation of various types of data, including nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein domains, and protein structures. The actual process of analyzing and interpreting data is referred to as computational biology. Important sub-disciplines within bioinformatics and computational biology include: the development and implementation of tools that enable efficient access to, and use and management of, various types of information; the development of new algorithms (mathematical formulas) and statistics with which to assess relationships among members of large data sets, such as methods to locate a gene within a sequence, predict protein structure and/or function, and cluster protein sequences into families of related sequences.

In general, the aims of bioinformatics are three-fold. First, at its simplest bioinformatics organizes data in a way that allows researchers to access existing information and to submit new entries as they are produced, e.g. the Protein Data Bank for 3D macromolecular structures. While data-curation is an essential task, the information stored in these databases is essentially useless until analyzed. Thus the purpose of bioinformatics extends much further. The second aim is to develop tools and resources that aid in the analysis of data. For example, having sequenced a particular protein, it is of interest to compare it with previously characterized sequences. Therefore, the primary goal of bioinformatics is to increase our understanding of biological processes. What sets it apart from other approaches, however, is its focus on developing and applying computationally intensive techniques (e.g., data mining and machine learning algorithms) to achieve this goal. Major research efforts in the field include sequence alignment, gene finding, genome assembly, protein structure alignment, protein structure prediction, prediction of gene expression and protein-protein interactions, and the modeling of evolution.