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Role of Bioinformatics in Drug Discovery

BY: Amna Adnan | Category: Bioinformatics | Submitted: 2010-07-05 09:08:34
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Article Summary: "Bioinformatics is the interdisciplinary field of computer programming, biology and mathematics. Like biology, pharmaceutical industries has also used this field to make drug discovery more efficient. The mapping of human genome project has enabled the researchers to find more drug targets..."


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Bioinformatics is the study of analysis of biological data using computer programming, mathematics and statistics. The most important achievement of bioinformatics is the human genome project which was mapped in 2001. Most of the work in this field is based on the research. Scientists make databases and develop different tools to analyze different gene expressions. As biological data of an organism is in the raw form and it is very time consuming to know the genes whose function has to be determined, so bioinformatics has successfully explored the information of the functions of the genes which was impossible to extract by other means. This field has great influence on other fields also like biotechnology, environment, medicine, agriculture and human health.

Drug Discovery:-
Bioinformatics has made it possible to sequence the genome of various organisms and there are almost hundred organisms whose genome has been mapped so far. The databases of these organisms are increasing in size day by day because every day they get new information about any organism. As other fields of science have made use of bioinformatics, similarly, pharmaceutical industry has also adopted bioinformatics and genomics for the drug targets and drug discovery.

The understanding of molecular biology has made it possible to design and develop the drugs. In the beginning, whole animals were used to test the synthetic organic molecules in the organ preparation. In the recent years, bioinformatics has made it easy for the researchers that they can now easily target the molecules in the in vitro environment. Now the screening of newly developed compounds can be done against the molecules of the proteins or genetically modified cells and it gives very efficient results. This way of drug development has eased the identification of the disease in an organism.

Today the pharmaceutical industries are capable of developing such drugs which are able to target 500 gene products. A gene product is the biochemical material which is produced from the gene expression. It is either RNA or protein. Now scientists has mapped the whole genome of humans which consists of 30,000 to 40,000 genes that is why it has provided the scientists to discover more drugs by observing the gene expression. Mapping of the whole human genome has enabled the scientists to have more drug targets but still it is a big challenge to get the target which will be show successful results. It is the science of bioinformatics which focuses the attention of the scientists on the target validation instead of target identification.

There are a lot of factors which should be observed during the drug target like, nucleotide and protein sequences, functional prediction, mapping information, data of gene and protein expression. Bioinformatics tools help in collecting the information about all these factors. These tools accumulate the information in the form of databases. These databases save time, money and efforts of the researchers and save the information in the form of groups and subgroups. The information in the databases also gives the knowledge of molecules.

There are two ways through which pharmaceutical industries develop drugs, either broad spectrum drugs or narrow spectrum drugs. Broad spectrum drugs can be used in the form of antibiotics to kill bacteria which have pathogenic characteristics. But the positive point is that these drugs do not harm the human health. Role of bioinformatics in the drug target is in this sense that now DNA and protein chips are used. The chips are very helpful in determining the expression of proteins or DNA in cells.

The clustering algorithms present in bioinformatics tools help the researchers to make comparison of the gene expression data and distinguish the diseased cells from healthy ones. These algorithms also enable the researchers to observe the function of the gene or protein during the process of disease.

Bioinformatics is a very helpful field as it makes such tools which provide the full information about the proteins and gene families and researchers can use this information for various applications for example drug target and drug discovery in particular.

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