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{bio,medical} informatics

Saturday, August 12, 2000

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GenomeBiology Whither genomics?
"The flood of data from genome-wide analysis is transforming biology. We need to develop new, interdisciplinary approaches to convert these data into information about the components and structures of individual biological pathways and to use the resulting information to yield knowledge about general principles that explain the functions and evolution of life."
redux [07.11.00]
Biospace.Com Big Picture Biology
"For most of us, formal biology education begins with complex systems--the traditional dissection of a frog in high school biology class is virtually a rite of passage in the U.S.

But the way many people learn about and invest in biotechnology is at the smallest end of the spectrum--the genome, now often described as the "periodic table" of biology. Genomics and all its related buzzwords have been responsible for much of the media attention, government grants, and investment capital heaped on the biotech industry over the past decade.

But just as there is a whole lot of chemistry that happens in between the periodic table and a birthday cake, there is a lot of biology in between the genome and a living organism. With the completion of biology's periodic table within sight, academics and industry players alike are pondering the best way to apply our hard won knowledge.

The only problem is, the path from genome to system seems to get harder the more we learn."

redux [07.13.00]
Nature : Science Update Model organism
"George von Dassow and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle, have done a mathematical simulation of the network genetic interactions that defines segments in the bodies of animals. This model of a biological system, which they announce in Nature1, heralds a new fusion of biology with computing that has important predictive power.

"We must hope that [the human genome] can be dissected into a series of interlinked modules or networks, each of which can be studied in relative isolation," comment Peter K. Dearden and Michael E. Akam of the University of Cambridge, UK, in the same issue of Nature. "As our knowledge increases, diagrams of gene regulatory networks look increasingly like explosions in a spaghetti factory," they add."
Nature Segmentation in silico
"A new mathematical biology is emerging. Building on experimental data from developing organisms, it uses the power of computational methods to explore the properties of real gene networks."

"Our understanding of gene networks is at an early stage. We perceive their complexity only after it has been filtered by the limitations of the techniques used to study them. Genome databases and DNA-chip technology, which enables huge numbers of genes to be screened for activity, will undoubtedly provide more, and much more complicated, data than anything produced by Drosophila genetics. If a relatively simple gene network such as the segment-polarity system is hard to understand intuitively, we can be certain that modelling will be essential to make sense of the flood of new data.

But this will not be elegant theoretical modelling: rather, it will be rooted in the arbitrary complexity of evolved organisms. The task will require a breed of biologist–mathematician as familiar with handling differential equations as with the limitations of messy experimental data. There will be plenty of vacancies, and, on present showing, not many qualified applicants."

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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