Talking bioinformatics

Science entails the making and modification of tools and machines to solve the real-life tribulations.

Computer science has stimulated the human mind to divert his enquiry into the study of nature with ideas spanning across several aspects, including mathematics, physics, astronomy and biology (a study of living things, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity shows biotechnology is any technological application that uses living organisms or their derivatives to make or modify products or processes for specific use. The diverse discipline has a profound impact on human health, environment, energy, agriculture, research and development because it generates new knowledge that could be used in making drugs and seeds.

Recent developments in biotechnology show predominance in genomics, a study of the DNA sequence of an organism in order to determine the genes involved in inherited diseases or beneficial traits.

Previously, scientists embarked on a study of the human anatomy to revolutionise the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of major diseases.

The advent of computing extremely accelerated the mapping of the human genome project.

The human genome sequencing was completed in 2003, but the data generated needed to be stored, retrieved, processed, transmitted and analysed—exemplifying the importance of computerised record-keeping systems such as Database Management System (DBMS).

The combination of the study of living systems with computer science and mathematics is exactly what bioinformatics is all about. This interdisciplinary study addresses biological problems using computational techniques and makes the rapid organisation and analysis of data possible.

Alternatively called computational biology, it also applies information technology in molecular biology as well as management and investigation of biological information.

The ultimate goal of bioinformatics is to uncover the wealth of biological information hidden in the mass of sequence, structure, literature and other biological data.

It also obtains a clearer insight into the fundamental biology of organisms and uses this information to enhance the life of human beings.

At present, it is being used to help produce better and more customised medicines to prevent or cure diseases.

In agriculture, it can be used for producing high-yield or low-maintenance crops, drought-resistant or pest-free varieties to improve the livelihood and income of households affected by effects of climate change.

Career prospects in the field of bioinformatics are increasing with additional use of information technology in molecular biology.

But like all new disciplines, bioinformatics has evoked profound debate and questions.

There are no bad effects of bioinformatics in human life because products manufactured through biotechnology principles undergo proper testing and quality control with strict government regulations to ensure user safety.

However, computing professionals in bioinformatics will have to worry about the ownership of the human genome, the access, privacy and standards of the valuable data. Biological databases and various bioinformatics information have been published and made available online, along with the tools to analyse DNA and protein sequences.

Global increase in terrorism has generated fear that if the DNA information fell into wrong hands, ethnic groups could be cleansed with engineered pathogens.

There are several ongoing disputes related to moral and ethical righteousness, with regards to cloning and growing organs in other mammals, with the use of information stored in biological databases.

But all said and done Bioinformatics is here to stay. It will go down in history as the miraculous discovery of contemporary science.

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