Bioinformatics research is the study of biology using the tools of computer science. Bioinformatics enables the study of proteins, genes and genomes using computer algorithms and computer databases. According to a more general National Institutes of Health definition, bioinformatics is “research, development, or application of computational tools and approaches for expanding the use of biological, medical, behavioral or health data, including those to acquire, store, organize, analyze, or visualize such data.” The related discipline of computational biology is “the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, behavioral, and social systems.”
Why we need bioinformatic research?
Biology is becoming increasingly data-intensive as high-throughput genomic assays become more accessible to greater numbers of biologists. Working with large-scale data sets requires user-friendly yet powerful software tools that stimulate user’s intuition, reveal outliers, detect deeper structures embedded in the data, and trigger insights and ideas for new experiments.
While bioinformatics efforts generally involve the classification, archiving, and model building from empirical data sources, computational biophysics is focused on the development of predictive models and simulation techniques based on first principles. Meaning, computational biophysics attempts to develop theoretical models that capture the essential physics, chemistry, and/or biology.
Traditionally, molecular biologists study the functions of a single molecule in the cell in isolation from its interacting partners. This analytical approach has been successful for understanding the biochemical functions of individual biological molecules, however, it is not likely for this approach to yield a comprehensive understanding of a biological phenomenon, which is the system behvior of a specific set of interacting molecules in the cell, and a biological molecule carry out its functions through interacting with other molecules.
Bioinformatics research is the application of informatics technique s to obtain, store, and interpret large quantities of biological data. The term “Bioinformatics” was initially coined by Ben Hesper and Paulien Hogewen in 1970 and defined as “the study of informatics processes in biotic systems”.
Bioinformatics finds application in different fields of biology. Take for instance personalized medicine. By identifying individual mutations involved in a disease, personalized medicines can be developed. The genetic information obtained from genome sequencing can help in identifying the precise gene on which the mutation has taken place based on which personalized treatments can be developed.
This can greatly improve the prognosis of an individual. For this, the organizational and analytical aspects of bioinformatics come into play. One achievement in this science was done by Lengauer T. who studied the treatment of HIV patients using bioinformatics-assisted therapy.
Another example is the use of bioinformatic research in the analysis of proteins. The structure and function of proteins can be characterized through various high-throughput technologies allowing scientists to gain a greater insight into their roles in the biological processes (see our website for more about crowd science projects to study the structure of proteins).
The field of bioinformatics research has revolutionized the analysis of data in many areas of biology. It allows us to seek answers for the most important and fundamental biological questions without the burden of accumulating large volumes of data.
In OpenSourceResearch we work in multidisciplinary teams composed of clinicians, basic science researchers, computer scientists and statisticians to explore, develop and disseminate new tools to conduct medical research and promote innovation in healthcare. We aim to find solutions for challenges in healthcare based on the available resources.
Bioinformatic research require advanced skills in data management and analysis. Recognising the need for strong expertise in the field of bioinformatics and big data analysis, developing countries need to establish bioinformatics research units in the universities. OpenSourceResearch team makes it easier for researchers to do bioinformatic research. We conduct research, teach scientists and build new tools. We can:
- Embed into a research project a bioinformatics expert who is supported by the senior advisory team
- Consult on grants, research design and data analysis/management
- Teach teams to do their own bioinformatics with self-directed tutorials, hands-on training workshops and webinars
It is a long hard way but we have a good roadmap.