What is Bionformatics?
Bioinformatics is essentially the collection, collation, storage and retrieval of biological data. These data range from DNA, Protein, Biochemical information etc. Bioinformatics can also be defined as the use of biomedical tools - software or programs to analyse, data which are stored, or retrieved from the genomic, proteomics or biochemical databases. These tools make it possible to do sequence alignment, homology search, identification of protein function, structure, and its role in a normal cell or in pathology. "Bioinformatics caused a dramatic change of focus towards sequence analysis, supported on by the advent of the genome projects and the resultant sequence/structure deficit".
Well, the answer is no, bioinformatics is beyond these definitions given above. Bioinformatics is the way forward for researchers, students, and even doctors. Today, bioinformatics tools are integrated into many branches of science and, in the near future, even the general public may be able to use them to analyse their own DNA sequence. However, the use of the sites require a level of training that may not be easy to the average computer user.
So, why bother to study bioinformatics as a student?
All that has been said so far is, "it is essential for..." In my own subjective view, it is more useful not only for final year project but also to reinforce study or lecture materials. Whatever the area of profession for a student, these tools are still important in doing a background study of unknown proteins, disease, etc. It can also aid in making research more rapid than working in a laboratory. In the near future, will it be possible perhaps, to even do laboratory work without needing the laboratory itself?
How do you access them?
A small intro to PubMed as a Bioinformatics Tool:
PubMed is a site affiliated with NCBI site, which if you don't use currently you will probably use in the future. It is often used to search:
- research papers
- information regarding proteins and genes (including their respective sequences)
However, because of the great amounts of information within this site, it is important to know how to navigate through it.
Other Bioinformatics tools can include:
- BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), which is used for the search comparison of nucleotide and amino acid sequences and their relevant proteins
- Prosite , A protein database that allows the search and comparison of amino acids as well as their relevant proteins and information on said proteins
- Interpro, This is another protein database that allows that allows for the prediction of domains related to specific proteins and identification of potentially interesting features
- SMART(simple modular architecture research tool), A protein database and search tool which can be used compare specific alignments to reveal potential domains within a protein
- Pfam, A large database containing an extensive range of protein families
- ↑ Teresa K. Attwood and David J. Parry-Smith (1988) Introduction to bioinformatics.chapter one, page 6.