WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new discipline has emerged at the intersection of computer science and biotechnology, bringing the power of advanced computational techniques to bear on complex problems in molecular biology. Called bioinformatics or computational biology, this new field is providing essential tools for scientists on the leading edge of research in genetics and other fundamental areas of biology.
Gene sequencing efforts such as the Human Genome Project, combined with new techniques for studying the activity of genes in living cells, are generating enormous amounts of raw data. These data are accumulating at a rapidly accelerating pace in a variety of public computer databases, such as those maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health.
"The driving force behind bioinformatics is the availability of these large databases and the need to come up with sophisticated computer models for extracting useful information from them," said David Haussler, professor of computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Haussler discussed the use of computational techniques to analyze genetic data in a talk Saturday (February 19) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
Haussler, who directs UCSC's Center for Biomolecular Engineering, recently joined the Human Genome Project's bioinformatics team. Bioinformatics is playing an increasingly important role in the project, an international effort to identify and understand all of the roughly 100,000 human genes.
"Computer analysis will be an integral part of identifying genes and understanding their functions," Haussler said.
The set of genetic instructions for making an organism -- its genome -- is contained in long, threadlike DNA molecules neatly packaged into chromosomes within the nucleus of every cell. The sequence of chemical units in the DNA is a kind o
Contact: Tim Stephens
University of California - Santa Cruz