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Monday, November 17, 2003

Biology & electronics converge
Deepak Bagai

DNA BIOINFORMATICS is an integration of mathematical, statistical and computer methods to analyse biological, biochemical and biophysical data. It is the science of developing computer databases and algorithms for the purpose of speeding up and enhancing biological research. The terms bioinformatics and computational biology are interchangable. All matters concerned with biological databases are considered bioinformatics and the process of developing algorithms and statistical models to analyse biological data through computers come under the domain of computational biology. Bioinformatics has become a mainstay of genomics and proteomics.

In a broader sense, bioinformatics is application of biology, computer science, electronics, IT, mathematical and statistical tools in the area of life sciences. The human body is the best possible machine ever designed. DNA is referred to as the genetic material of living organisms. It is a large helical molecule having weak bonding between base pairs of nucleotides. The study of the DNA variations help in devicing new techniques for medical diagnosis and treatments. A gene is a sequence of DNA that represents a fundamental unit of heredity. Human genome consists of approximately 30,000 genes, having approximately 3 billion base pairs.

Computer methods help in sequencing larger portions of genomics of several species. Sequencing refers to the determination of the order of nucleotides in a DNA and is the most important aspect of bioinformatics. Research on genomics is dealing with the logistics behind the development of human being from single cell to an adult. The convergence of electronics, computers and life sciences has enabled the study of organisms at biomolecular level.

The applications of bioinformatics in medicine are unparalleled. Biochips have become a reality and are used to analyse biological material to diagnose a disease. They assist in drug discovery and testing. In coming times the patient will visit a doctor with lab-on -chip device having the complete medical history. The drug remedy for the ailment will be decided on the basis of DNA of the patient. The chip will also include the patientís identity and establish the cause of the potential disease, and its corresponding remedy. DNA chips consist of small flat surfaces on which strands of half of DNA double helix are placed. The chip is used to determine the presence of a certain variety of genes in the biological sample. These chips function like a microprocessor. Protein chips are like DNA chips and they sample proteins, which make the DNA.

The day is not far when the human being will get rid of inborn diseases in no time. If the aptitude is less it can be increased. The height and physique of an individual can be altered. The convergence of biology, computer science, electronics and mathematics into bioinformatics will enable such innovations.