Application of Bioinformatics in Biological Science

In this application of bioinformatics in biological science post we have briefly explained about various applications of bioinformatics categorized under following groups: sequence analysis, function analysis, and structure analysis.

Bioinformatics joins mathematics, statistics, and computer science and information technology to solve complex biological problems. These problems are usually at the molecular level which cannot be solved by other means. This interesting field of science has many applications and research areas where it can be applied.

Applications of Bioinformatics in Biological Science

All the applications of bioinformatics are carried out in the user level. Here is the biologist including the students at various level can use certain applications and use the output in their research or in study. Various applications of bioinformatics can be categorized under following groups:

Sequence Analysis

Function Analysis

Structure Analysis

Sequence Analysis: All the applications of bioinformatics that analyses various types of sequence information and can compare between similar types of information is grouped under Sequence Analysis.

Function Analysis: These applications of bioinformatics analyze the function engraved within the sequences and helps predict the functional interaction between various proteins or genes. Also expressional analysis of various genes is a prime topic for research these days.

Structure Analysis: When it comes to the realm of RNA and Proteins, its structure plays a vital role in the interaction with any other thing. This gave birth to a whole new branch termed Structural Bioinformatics with is devoted to predict the structure and possible roles of these structures of Proteins or RNA

Applications of Bioinformatics in Biological Science

Sequence Analysis: The application of sequence analysis determines those genes which encode regulatory sequences or peptides by using the information of sequencing. 

For sequence analysis, there are many powerful tools and computers which perform the duty of analysing the genome of various organisms. These computers and tools also see the DNA mutations in an organism and also detect and identify those sequences which are related. Shotgun sequence techniques are also used for sequence analysis of numerous fragments of DNA. Special software is used to see the overlapping of fragments and their assembly.

Prediction of Protein Structure: It is easy to determine the primary structure of proteins in the form of amino acids which are present on the DNA molecule but it is difficult to determine the secondary, tertiary or quaternary structures of proteins. For this purpose either the method of crystallography is used or tools of bioinformatics can also be used to determine the complex protein structures crucial applications of bioinformatics in biochemistry field.

Genome Annotation: In genome annotation applications of bioinformatics, genomes are marked to know the regulatory sequences and protein coding. It is a very important part of the human genome project as it determines the regulatory sequences.

Comparative Genomics: Comparative genomics an applications of bioinformatics is the branch of bioinformatics which determines the genomic structure and function relation between different biological species. For this purpose, intergenomic maps are constructed which enable the scientists to trace the processes of evolution that occur in genomes of different species. These maps contain the information about the point mutations as well as the information about the duplication of large chromosomal segments.

Health and Drug discovery: The tools of bioinformatics are also helpful in drug discovery, diagnosis and disease management. Complete sequencing of human genes has enabled the scientists to make medicines and drugs which can target more than 500 genes. Different computational tools and drug targets has made the drug delivery easy and specific because now only those cells can be targeted which are diseased or mutated. It is also easy to know the molecular basis of a disease.

Molecular medicine:  The human genome will have profound effects on the fields of biomedical research and clinical medicine. Every disease has a genetic component. This may be inherited (as is the case with an estimated 3000-4000 hereditary disease including Cystic Fibrosis and Huntingtons disease) or a result of the body’s response to an environmental stress which causes alterations in the genome (eg. cancers, heart disease, diabetes.). 

The completion of the human genome means that we can search for the genes directly associated with different diseases and begin to understand the molecular basis of these diseases more clearly. This new knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of disease will enable better treatments, cures and even preventative tests to be developed.

Personalized medicine: Clinical medicine will become more personalized with the development of the field of pharmacogenomics. This is the study of how an individual’s genetic inheritance affects the body’s response to drugs. At present, some drugs fail to make it to the market because a small percentage of the clinical patient population show adverse effects to a drug due to sequence variants in their DNA. As a result, potentially lifesaving drugs never makes it to the marketplace. 

Today, doctors have to use trial and error to find the best drug to treat a particular patient as those with the same clinical symptoms can show a wide range of responses to the same treatment. In the future, doctors will be able to analyse a patient’s genetic profile and prescribe the best available drug therapy and dosage from the beginning.

Preventative medicine: With the specific details of the genetic mechanisms of diseases being unravelled, the development of diagnostic tests to measure a person’s susceptibility to different diseases may become a distinct reality. Preventative actions such as change of lifestyle or having treatment at the earliest possible stages when they are more likely to be successful, could result in huge advances in our struggle to conquer disease.

Gene therapy:  In the not too distant future, the potential for using genes themselves to treat disease may become a reality. Gene therapy an applications of bioinformatics is the approach used to treat, cure or even prevent disease by changing the expression of a persons genes. Currently, this field is in its infantile stage with clinical trials for many different types of cancer and other diseases ongoing.

Drug development: At present all drugs on the market target only about 500 proteins. With an improved understanding of disease mechanisms and using computational tools to identify and validate new drug targets, more specific medicines that act on the cause, not merely the symptoms, of the disease can be developed. These highly specific drugs promise to have fewer side effects than many of today’s medicines.

Microbial genome applications: The arrival of the complete genome sequences and their potential to provide a greater insight into the microbial world and its capacities could have broad and far reaching implications for environment, health, energy and industrial applications. 

For these reasons, in 1994, the US Department of Energy (DOE) initiated the MGP (Microbial Genome Project) to sequence genomes of bacteria useful in energy production, environmental clean-up, industrial processing and toxic waste reduction. 

By studying the genetic material of these organisms, scientists can begin to understand these microbes at a very fundamental level and isolate the genes that give them their unique abilities to survive under extreme conditions.

Waste cleanup: Deinococcus radiodurans is known as the world’s toughest bacteria and it is the most radiation resistant organism known. Scientists are interested in this organism because of its potential usefulness in cleaning up waste sites that contain radiation and toxic chemicals.

Climate change Studies: Increasing levels of carbon dioxide emission, mainly through the expanding use of fossil fuels for energy, are thought to contribute to global climate change. Recently, the DOE (Department of Energy, USA) launched a program to decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. One method of doing so is to study the genomes of microbes that use carbon dioxide as their sole carbon source.

Alternative energy sources: Scientists are studying the genome of the microbe Chlorobium tepidum which has an unusual capacity for generating energy from light another applications of bioinformatics.

Antibiotic resistance: Scientists have been examining the genome of Enterococcus faecalis-a leading cause of bacterial infection among hospital patients. They have discovered a virulence region made up of a number of antibiotic-resistant genes that may contribute to the bacterium’s transformation from harmless gut bacteria to a menacing invader. The discovery of the region, known as a pathogenicity island, could provide useful markers for detecting pathogenic strains and help to establish controls to prevent the spread of infection in wards.

Forensic analysis of microbes: Scientists used their genomic tools to help distinguish between the strain of Bacillus anthryacis that was used in the summer of 2001 terrorist attack in Florida with that of closely related anthrax strains.

Bioweapon: Scientists have recently built the virus poliomyelitis using entirely artificial means. They did this using genomic data available on the Internet and materials from a mail-order chemical supply. The research was financed by the US Department of Defence as part of a biowarfare response program to prove to the world the reality of bioweapons. The researchers also hope their work will discourage officials from ever relaxing programs of immunisation. This project has been met with very mixed feeelings.

Evolutionary studies: The sequencing of genomes from all three domains of life, eukaryota, bacteria and archaea means that evolutionary studies can be performed in a quest to determine the tree of life and the last universal common ancestor.

Crop improvement: Comparative genetics of the plant genomes has shown that the organisation of their genes has remained more conserved over evolutionary time than was previously believed. These findings suggest that information obtained from the model crop systems can be used to suggest improvements to other food crops. At present the complete genomes of Arabidopsis thaliana (water cress) and Oryza sativa (rice) are available.

Insect resistance: Genes from Bacillus thuringiensis that can control a number of serious pests have been successfully transferred to cotton, maize and potatoes. This new ability of the plants to resist insect attack means that the amount of insecticides being used can be reduced and hence the nutritional quality of the crops is increased

Improve nutritional quality: Scientists have recently succeeded in transferring genes into rice to increase levels of Vitamin A, iron and other micronutrients. This work could have a profound impact in reducing occurrences of blindness and anaemia caused by deficiencies in Vitamin A and iron respectively. Scientists have inserted a gene from yeast into the tomato, and the result is a plant whose fruit stays longer on the vine and has an extended shelf life.

Drought resistance varieties: Progress has been made in developing cereal varieties that have a greater tolerance for soil alkalinity, free aluminium and iron toxicities. These varieties will allow agriculture to succeed in poorer soil areas, thus adding more land to the global production base. Research is also in progress to produce crop varieties capable of tolerating reduced water conditions.

Veterinary Science: Sequencing projects of many farm animals including cows, pigs and sheep are now well under way in the hope that a better understanding of the biology of these organisms will have huge impacts for improving the production and health of livestock and ultimately have benefits for human nutrition.

Comparative Studies: Analyzing and comparing the genetic material of different species is an important method for studying the functions of genes, the mechanisms of inherited diseases and species evolution. Bioinformatics tools can be used to make comparisons between the numbers, locations and biochemical functions of genes in different organisms.

Organisms that are suitable for use in experimental research are termed model organisms. They have a number of properties that make them ideal for research purposes including short life spans, rapid reproduction, being easy to handle, inexpensive and they can be manipulated at the genetic level.

Further Readings