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Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Molecular Biology; a field of biology that studies the composition, structure and interactions of cellular molecules - such as nucleic acids and proteins, that carry out the biological processes essential for the cell’s functions and maintenance. Bioinformatics; that entails the creation and advancement of databases, algorithms, computational and statistical techniques, to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of biological data. The primary goal of bioinformatics is to increase the understanding of biological processes.

Vast amounts of DNA sequences have already been determined, and the pace at which new sequences are characterized is continuously accelerating. Computers are necessary to store and distribute this enormous volume of data. Bioinformatics is the rapidly developing area of computer science devoted to collecting, organizing, and analyzing DNA and protein sequences.

Bioinformatics is most commonly used in molecular biology i.e. for sequencing and comparing full genomes of organisms, for identifying the genes and determining the foundations of the proteins they encode, for understanding gene expression and Genetic diseases, for understanding evolution and evolutionary history, for the prediction of protein folding and characterising the function of protein based on this folding. Bioinformatics is becoming an increasingly important field in molecular biology. The Laboratories of Molecular Biology applies bioinformatics tools in various research projects, with an emphasis on the analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data.

The principal data banks where such sequences are stored are the GenBank, Bethesda, Maryland, and the EMBL Database. These databases continuously exchange newly reported sequences and make them available to molecular cell biologists. Newly derived sequences can be compared with previously determined sequences to search for similarities/homologous sequences. Protein-coding regions can be translated into amino acid sequences, which also can be compared.

It also plays a role in the analysis of gene and protein expression and regulation. Bioinformatics tools aid in comparing, analyzing and interpreting of genetic and genomic data and more generally in the understanding of evolutionary aspects of of molecular biology. In experimental molecular biology, bioinformatics techniques such as image and signal processing allow extraction of useful results from large amounts of raw data. 

There is an increasing demand of life scientists with a strong combined background in both; molecular biology and bioinformatics. Biological industry is trying to find candidates with a strong combined background. Although there are numerous study programs which are addressing this demand for bioinformaticians, single courses at a university are usually focused either on the wet lab or the dry lab independently. Frequently, lecturers with a bioinformatics background teach the bioinformatics aspect, while biologists teach the molecular biology part.

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