Blog: The Wheat Sheaf
What is Bioinformatics?
What is bioinformatics? This is a relatively new field that combines the words “biology” and “information.” As technology continues to advance, we start to deepen our understanding of the genetic code. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field, composed of geneticists, statisticians, computer programmers, mathematicians, engineers, and many others. This exciting new field primarily focuses on computer analyses of biological data using mathematical and statistical methods to better understand the genetic aspect of diseases, genetic adaptations, DNA properties etc.
History. The middle of the 20th century marked the first discovery of DNA as the genetic code for living organisms. This was a big breakthrough in science, as we finally got to take a closer look into our genetic basis. Years later, scientists started sequencing DNA for small organisms, and eventually led to the initiation of the Human Genome Project to have the whole human DNA sequenced. As technology became more advanced, the cost to sequencing became more affordable for research. Currently, the cost to sequence one person’s genome is less than $1000. But what do we do with these massive amounts of DNA now? Bioinformatics has emerged to fill in the gaps. Bioinformatics uses algorithms and programs to analyze for important genes, assemble the genome, perform DNA sequence alignments, and construct phylogenetic relationships etc. These findings will be stored in databases for other researchers to access as well.
Bioinformatics and wheat. Genetic analysis of wheat has been studied extensively throughout the years. Research on disease resistant genes, biotic and abiotic stress resistant genes, etc. have been identified to help maximize wheat yield output. These are important genes in combating diseases (such as Fusarium and rust) and stresses (such as droughts and salt environments). Therefore, crops will be less reliant on fungicide and other chemicals. Further bioinformatics research will be needed in the future to continuously expand our understanding of wheat in the genetic level.
For more information on Canada’s contribution to sequencing the wheat genome: http://words.usask.ca/news/2016/01/06/u-of-s-researchers-help-lead-wheat-genome-sequencing-breakthrough/