Archive for July, 2012

Bioinformatics now! It is time to learn computer coding

Monday, July 30th, 2012

The science of bioinformatics or computational biology is increasingly being used to improve the quality of life as we know it. Bioinformatics has developed out of the need to understand the molecule of DNA, also known as the code of life. Massive DNA sequencing projects became a reality with the advent of next generation technologies and has added in the growth of the science of bioinformatics. DNA, the basic molecule of life, together with other layers of information in the cells, directly controls the fundamental biology of life. It codes for genes (both protein-coding and non-coding) that act in concert with some environmental factors to determine the biological makeup of humans or any living organism. It is variations and errors in the genomic DNA (such as mutations and polymorphisms), which ultimately define the likelihood of developing diseases or resistance to these same disorders. This way, 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 obtaining a clearer insight into the fundamental biology of organisms and to use this information to enhance the standard of life. The science of bioinformatics grows together with computer science since the more breakthroughs the better for both fields. Recently, with the explosion of genetic data and genomics information, bioinformatics became an essential tool to life sciences. In other words, the need to deal with complex types and sources of data from living organisms is increasing the importance of computer science for biology. Never in history, computers and biology were so close to each other. I believe that, in the future, every laboratory from academic and private sectors will need to have a group dedicated to bioinformatics. This is already happening in several institutions and companies. Genomics and the projects related to it are adding amounts of data that our brain cannot process. Big challenges will be faced in order to facilitate the interconnection between computer science and biology. Computer scientists have no biology or medical training and biologists know little on the language used by “computer coders”. Thus, to be a multitasking scientist today, an individual needs lots of computer skills. And by computer skills I do not mean just knowing how to use a computer. A deeper knowledge is needed to deal with big amounts of data being generated by genetics and genomics right now.