Why Bioinformatics? Why Biotechnology?
Bioinformatics derives knowledge from computer analysis of biological data. Generally speaking, bioinformatics involves the creation and development of advanced information and computational technologies for problems in molecular technology. It deals with methods for storing, retrieving and analyzing biological data such as nucleic acid (RNA, DNA), protein sequences, structures, functions, pathways and interactions. Bioinformatics is a rapidly developing branch of biology and is highly interdisciplinary using techniques and concepts from informatics, statistics, mathematics, chemistry, biochemistry, physics and linguistics. It has many practical applications in different areas of biology and medicine.
The history of computing in biology goes back to the 1920s when scientists were already thinking of establishing biological laws solely from data analysis by induction. However, only the development of powerful computers and the availability of experimental data that can be readily computed (for example, DNA or amino acid sequences and three–dimensional structures of proteins) launched bioinformatics as an independent field. Today, practical applications of bioinformatics are readily available through the World Wide Web, and are widely used in biological and medical research.
Some of the reasons why biological computing is so natural are, first, the large amounts of biological data provide the challenges of maintaining, accessing and analyzing this large amount of data. Second reason being the nature of biological data itself is represented in the form of statistical data. And finally, scientists have established a strong analogy between DNA sequence and the structure of computer program; it can be shown that the DNA sequence represents a Turing machine, one of the key abstractions in modern computability theory.
Why is Bioinformatics gaining importance? The reason is the interest of the pharmaceutical industry in genome sequencing projects, which form the main segment of research. This vital information is necessary for medical diagnostic and therapeutic uses, and there are opportunities for other industrial applications. Bioinformatics has emerged as a multidisciplinary subject that combines developments in information technology and computer technology as applicable to biotechnology and biological sciences. Bioinformatics uses computer software tools for database creation, data management, data warehousing, data mining and global communication network. Some of the areas in which bioinformatics forms an integral component are functional genomics, biomolecular structure, proteome analysis, cell metabolism, biodiversity, downstream processing in chemical engineering, drug design and vaccine design.
Analyses in bioinformatics focus on three types of datasets: genome sequences, macromolecular structures, and functional genomics experiments (e.g. expression data, yeast two–hybrid screens). But analysis is also done on various other data, e.g. taxonomy trees, relationship data from metabolic pathways, the text of scientific papers, and patient statistics. A large range of techniques are used which include primary sequence alignment, protein 3D structure alignment, phylogenetic tree construction, prediction and classification of protein structure, prediction of RNA structure, prediction of protein function, and expression data clustering. The development of algorithms is an important part of bioinformatics because it aids in the analysis of biological data.
Bioinformatics has a large impact on biological research. Giant research projects such as the human genome project would be meaningless without the bioinformatics component. The goal of sequencing projects, for example, is not to refute a hypothesis, but to provide raw data for later analysis. Once the raw data is available, hypotheses may be formulated and tested. In this manner, computer experiments may answer biological questions which cannot be tackled by traditional approaches. This has led to the founding of dedicated bioinformatics research groups as well as to a different work practice in the average bioscience laboratory where the computer has become an essential research tool.
Where is Bioinformatics useful? Collection of quantitative data in biology for complete genomes of biological species including human genome, protein sequences, protein 3-D structures, metabolic pathways databases, cell line & hybridoma information, biodiversity related information is one of the major work done in Bioinformatics. Functional genomics, proteomics, discovery of new drugs and vaccines, molecular diagnostic kits and pharmacogenomics are some of the areas in which bioinformatics has become an integral part of Research & Development.
What are the key areas of research? The key areas of work include organization of knowledge in databases, sequence analysis and structural bioinformatics. Organizing knowledge in databases include storing biological raw data in public databanks such as Genbank or EMPL where data can be submitted and accessed from all over the world. The kind of data that are stored include Sequence data, yeast two-hybrid screens, expression arrays, systematic gene-knock-out experiments and metabolic pathways. Special languages have been formulated to facilitate the task of accessing the data stored in the databanks keeping in mind that the databank information from several databanks needs to be accessed simultaneously. Analyzing of sequence data deals with identifying sequences of DNA to obtain an annotated protein sequence. These protein sequences are further analyzed to predict their function. The ultimate goal of sequence annotation is to arrive at a complete functional description of all genes of an organism. Structural bioinformatics is concerned with computational approaches to predict and analyze the spatial structure of proteins and nucleic acids.
What is the future scope of Bioinformatics? The importance and usefulness of Bioinformatics has been realized in last few years by many industries. Therefore, large Bioinformatics R&D divisions have been established in many pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and even in other conventional industries dealing with biological products. Bioinformatics is thus rated as number one career in the field of biosciences. The need for trained manpower in this area is sharply on the rise but there are very few training institutions in the world where such training is provided. The exploding new field of bioinformatics is the fusion of high-powered computing and biology that is aimed at revolutionizing the health-care industry. The field is so much in demand that it has created such a shortage in the job market that anyone with any bioinformatics experience has a very good scope for employment.
Biotechnology describes the use of organisms and biological processes to provide food, chemicals and services to meet the needs of humans; this definition includes agriculture, horticulture and many other aspects of applied biology.
Biotechnology can be broadly defined as "using living organisms or their products for commercial purposes." Since the beginning of recorded history, there is proof supporting the practice of biotechnology by human society in activities such as baking bread, brewing alcoholic beverages, or breeding food crops or domestic animals. A narrower and more specific definition of biotechnology is "the commercial application of living organisms or their products, which involves the deliberate manipulation of their DNA molecules". This definition refers to a set of laboratory techniques developed within the last 20 years that have been responsible for the tremendous scientific and commercial interest in biotechnology, the founding of many new companies, and the redirection of research efforts and financial resources among established companies and universities. These laboratory techniques provide scientists with a spectacular vision of the design and function of living organisms, and provide technologists in many fields with the tools to implement exciting commercial applications.
What is the technology involved? DNA from different living organisms such as plants, animals, insects, bacteria, etc are combined to result in genetically modified organisms that inherit their traits from the parent organisms. This genetic engineering has resulted in highly productive farms and poultry animals and also numerous highly nutritious fruits and vegetables. Genetic engineering is also being used in the production of pharmaceuticals, gene therapy, and the development of transgenic plants and animals.
Human drugs such as insulin for diabetics, growth hormone for individuals with pituitary dwarfism, and tissue plasminogen activator for heart attack victims, as well as animal drugs like the growth hormones, bovine or porcine somatotropin, are being produced by the fermentation of transgenic bacteria that have received the appropriate human, cow, or pig gene.
2. Gene Therapy
The first clinical gene therapy is underway to correct an enzyme deficiency called ADA in children. Bone marrow cells are removed, defective DNA in bone marrow cells is supplemented with a copy of normal DNA, and the repaired cells are then returned to the patient's body.
3. Transgenic plants
Plants that are more tolerant of herbicides, resistant to insect or viral pests, or modified versions of fruit or flowers have been grown and tested in outdoor test plots since 1987. The genes for these traits have been delivered to the plants from other unrelated plants, bacteria, or viruses by genetic engineering techniques.
4. Transgenic animals
Presently, most transgenic animals are designed to assist researchers in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Several companies have invested lots of money and time in designing and testing transgenic mammals that produce important pharmaceuticals in the animal's milk. Products such as insulin, growth hormone, and tissue plasminogen activator that are currently produced by fermentation of transgenic bacteria may soon be obtained by milking transgenic cows, sheep, or goats.
Biotechnology in diagnostic applications Each living creature is unique and therefore each has a unique DNA pattern. Individuals within any given species, breed, or hybrid line can usually be identified by minor differences in their DNA sequences - as few as one difference in a million letters can be detected! Using the techniques of DNA fingerprinting and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) scientists can diagnose viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, distinguish between closely related individuals, or map the locations of specific genes along the vast length of the DNA molecules in the cells. Identifying organisms has been made easier by biotechnology because any individual organism can be uniquely identified by its DNA fingerprint. DNA fingerprinting can also be used in determining the family relationships in parenting disputes, match organ donors to recipient in transplant programs, identify criminals from crime scene information. Diagnosis of infectious diseases is another profound application of the new DNA technology. Tuberculosis, AIDS, papillomavirus, and many other infectious diseases, in addition to the inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, are diagnosed within hours by the PCR technique rather than days or weeks by traditional methods. The greatly increased sensitivity and speed of the PCR technique, as compared with traditional methods, allows earlier detection, intervention and treatment. PCR assays will soon be available to diagnose diseases of crops and livestock.
Biotechnology uses the human body’s own tools and weapons to fight diseases. Biotechnology medicines and therapies use proteins, enzymes, antibodies and other substances naturally produced in the human body to fight infections and diseases. Biotechnology also uses other living organisms-plant and animal cells, viruses and yeasts-to assist in the large-scale production of medicines for human use. There are four primary areas in health care in which biotechnology is being used: medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and gene therapy.
Biotechnology has been extensively used in crossbreeding and hybridization programs to produce superior organisms that are capable of producing high quality products for human and commercial consumption. Bio-pesticides have been created that are environment friendly and biodegradable. Herbicide Tolerance, Natural Protections for Plants are other areas where biotechnology has assisted agricultural advances.
Biotechnology has assisted in the improving and developing advanced biocatalyst, however the main aim has been in creating novel biocatalyst. Some of the applications of Industrial & Environmental Biotechnology have been Renewable Energy, Industrial enzymes and Green Plastics.
Biotechnology has brought about a revolution in the way criminals can be identified. Very large centralized databases have facilitated quick identification of criminals through DNA fingerprinting. Forensic testing has also gained by the advancement in biotechnology.
The other areas of application include Environment, Space, Animal Health, Marine Biotechnology, Anthropology, and Biological Warfare & Defense.
Why Bioinformatics? Why Biotechnology?
The exploding new field of bioinformatics is the fusion of high-powered computing and biology that is aimed at revolutionizing the health-care industry. And biotechnology is the use of living organisms or their products for commercial purpose. These two fields of research have resulted in numerous advancements in the field of health, agriculture, space technology, industrial biocatalysts, environment, animal health, marine biotechnology, crime detection, anthropology, bio-warfare and defense, drug discovery and even information technology. The importance of these fields can be assessed by the stress laid on the Human Genome Project and the research on cloning and drug discovery. Without biotechnology, cloning would never have become a reality. Genetic reengineering has produced successfully fruits, vegetables, plants and animals that are capable of producing important pharmaceuticals in their products. Functional genomics, biomolecular structure, proteome analysis, cell metabolism, biodiversity, downstream processing in chemical engineering, drug design, vaccine design are some of the areas in which bioinformatics is an integral component. The importance and need for these two fields has been highlighted by their wide range of use and application.
Add comment to this page: