Quantitation and quantitative tools are indispensable in modern biology. Most biological research involves application of some type of mathematical, statistical, or computational tools to help synthesize recorded data and integrate various types of information in the process of answering a particular biological question. Bioinformatics involves the use of computers to collect, organize and use biological information to answer questions in fields like evolutionary biology.
Definition of Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary research area at the interface between computer science and biological science. A variety of definitions exist in the literature and on the World Wide Web; some are more inclusive than others. Bioinformatics involves the technology that uses computers for storage, information retrieval, manipulation, and distribution of information related to biological macromolecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins. The emphasis here is on the use of computers because most of the tasks in genomic data analysis are highly repetitive or mathematically complex. The use of computers is absolutely indispensable in mining genomes for information gathering and knowledge building. Bioinformatics is the science of developing computer databases and algorithms for the purpose of speeding up and enhancing biological research. It can be defined more specifically,
“Bioinformatics combines the latest technology with biological research.”
Significance of Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics involves the integration of computers, software tools, and databases in an effort to address biological questions. That approaches are often used for major initiatives that generate large data sets. Two important large-scale activities that use bioinformatics are genomics and proteomics. Genomics refers to the analysis of genomes. A genome can be thought of as the complete set of DNA sequences that codes for the hereditary material that is passed on from generation to generation. These DNA sequences include all of the genes (the functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to offspring) and transcripts (the RNA copies that are the initial step in decoding the genetic information) included within the genome. Thus, genomics refers to the sequencing and analysis of all of these genomic entities, including genes and transcripts, in an organism. Proteomics, on the other hand, refers to the analysis of the complete set of proteins or proteome. In addition to genomics and proteomics, there are many more areas of biology where it is being applied. Each of these important areas in bioinformatics aims to understand complex biological systems.
Figure 1 Field of Bioinformatics
The ultimate goal of bioinformatics is to better understand a living cell and how it functions at the molecular level. By analyzing raw molecular sequence and structural data, bioinformatics research can generate new insights and provide a “global” perspective of the cell. The reason that the functions of a cell can be better understood by analyzing sequence data is ultimately because the flow of genetic information is dictated by the “central dogma” of biology in which DNA is transcribed to RNA, which is translated to proteins. Cellular functions are mainly performed by proteins whose capabilities are ultimately determined by their sequences. Therefore, solving functional problems using sequence and sometimes structural approaches has proved to be a fruitful endeavor.
Applications of Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics has not only become essential for basic genomic and molecular biology research, but is having a major impact on many areas of biotechnology and biomedical sciences. It has applications, for example, in knowledge-based drug design, forensic DNA analysis, and agricultural biotechnology. Computational studies of protein–ligand interactions provide a rational basis for the rapid identification of novel leads for synthetic drugs. Knowledge of the three-dimensional structures of proteins allows molecules to be designed that are capable of binding to the receptor site of a target protein with great affinity and specificity. This informatics-based approach significantly reduces the time and cost necessary to develop drugs with higher potency, fewer side effects, and less toxicity than using the traditional trial-and-error approach. In forensics, results from molecular phylogenetic analysis have been accepted as evidence in criminal courts. Some sophisticated Bayesian statistics and likelihood-based methods for analysis of DNA have been applied in the analysis of forensic identity.
 Jin Xiong, “Essential bioinformatics” Cambridge University Press, 2006
 joannefox, “What Is Bioinformatics?”, available online at: https://www.scq.ubc.ca/what-is-bioinformatics/