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Bioinformatics is the study of the inherent structure of biological information and biological systems. It brings together the avalanche of systematic biological data (e.g. genomes) with the analytic theory and practical tools of mathematics and computer science.

Over the last few decades, advances in molecular biology and the equipment available for research in this field have allowed the increasingly rapid sequencing of large portions of the genomes of several species. In fact, to date, several bacterial genomes, as well as those of some simple eukaryotes (e.g., Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or baker's yeast) have been sequenced in full.


The Human Genome Project, designed to sequence all 24 of the human chromosomes and the project most associated with bioinformatics, has also been completed. The information gathered is made public. Popular sequence databases, such as GenBank and EMBL , have been growing at exponential rates. This deluge of information has necessitated the careful storage, organization and indexing of sequence information.

Information science has been applied to biology to produce the field called Bioinformatics.

DNA strand

The simplest tasks used in bioinformatics concern the creation and maintenance of databases of biological information. Nucleic acid sequences (and the protein sequences derived from them) comprise the majority of such databases. While the storage and organization of millions of nucleotides is far from trivial, designing a database and developing an interface whereby researchers can both access existing information and submit new entries is only the beginning.

The most pressing tasks in bioinformatics involve the analysis of sequence information.

  • Finding the genes in the DNA sequences of various organisms.

  • Developing methods to predict the structure and/or function of newly discovered proteins and structural RNA sequences.

  • Clustering protein sequences into families of related sequences and the development of protein models.

  • Aligning similar proteins and generating phylogenetic trees to examine evolutionary relationships.

The process of evolution has produced DNA sequences that encode proteins with very specific functions. It is possible to predict the three-dimensional structure of a protein using algorithms that have been derived from our knowledge of physics, chemistry and most importantly, from the analysis of other proteins with similar amino acid sequences.



International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
International Society of Computational Biology
European Bioinformatics Institute

Knowledge Center
Biomedical Informatics
Gene Searching
Protein Modeling
Sequence Databases
Health Informatics
Healthcare Technologies

Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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