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SYMBIOmatics: Synergies in Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics

BY: atisha jain | Category: Bioinformatics | Submitted: 2011-09-15 19:11:13
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Article Summary: "This article is about the synergy i.e the integration between two different fields: Bioinformatics (BI) and Medical informatics (MI). Symbiomatics is a project which was started with an objective to identify the links and potential synergies between the bioinformatics and medical informatics research areas.."

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Before the advancement of bioinformatics and software based applications, there was a huge gap between biological research areas and information technology towards the cure and treatment of various diseases, human health care etc. But in the past few years, both the fields have contributed mainly to the health care domains, however both the fields contribute in their own ways. Also, there has been a huge rise in the clinical, genomic and proteomic data, made available after the commencement of human genome project and other projects related to it. So, there is a need to integrate and analyze this data efficiently in order to have a much better understanding of the disease. This calls for the synergy between different fields, which has given rise to a new concept called as SYMBIOmatics, i.e. an integration between the two fields: Bioinformatics (BI) and Medical informatics (MI).

Symbiomatics is a project which was started with an objective to identify the links and potential synergies between the bioinformatics and medical informatics research areas. These are the two research fields that have become mature in the past 20 years. Bioinformatics is mainly concerned with biological research like genomics, proteomics, etc. while medical informatics mainly focuses on patient-based clinical research and information technology for medical care. Both the domains, however, share the same goal, i.e. to provide new IT-based solutions to biomedical research and hence contribute to the treatment and cure of diseases, but in their own ways. Medical informatics is considered as the integration of different domains of information technology, computer science, and health care, and thus is centered on the storage, retrieval, optimization and use of the information in health and medicine. Now the question arises that why there is need of such a synergy between different fields. The answer to this question comes from the fact, we all know, that today health care has moved from patient-centered systems to community-centered systems, therefore, the genetic data is also increasing. Moreover, increased knowledge of the human genome from human genome project suggests that the large amounts of genetic and proteomic data give us opportunities to study new research targets and develop new biomedical applications. This is because, there are various complex interactions between genes and environmental factors and these interactions give rise to a different phenotype. So, these interactions have to be studied well in order to understand a disease properly. This vast amounts of data generated in the laboratory in the areas of functional and structural genomics and proteomics has to be dealt with effectively in order to sustain new innovative approaches. Also, it is equally important to integrate the clinical data generated by medical records. Such an integration will thus lead to innovative approaches to link patient care and public health. So, here comes the great demand of synergy between both the domains.

If we give an insight into the history of medical informatics, the earliest use of computation for medicine was for dental projects in the 1950s at the United States National Bureau of Standards by Robert Ledley. The next step in the mid 1950s was the development of expert systems such as MYCIN and Internist-I. Then in 1965, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) started to use MEDLINE and MEDLARS. Homer R. Warner was one of the fathers of medical informatics who founded the Department of Medical Informatics at the University of Utah in 1968.

Impact of the synergy: Undoubtedly, both the domains serve the needs of different but related research communities like bioinformatics provides solutions to scientists doing biological research by helping them to analyze the huge amount of data whereas medical informatics fulfils the demands from clinical personnel, practitioners and scientists in medical research. Both the domains work in an interdisciplinary environment, share a common IT infrastructure and also adopt solutions from each other. As a result, this synergy between bioinformatics and medical informatics contribute towards medical and biological research that aims at a better understanding of the molecular basis of diseases, i.e. the genetic predisposition for a disease. For this reason, BIOINFOMED ("Prospective Analysis of the Relationships and Synergy between Medical Informatics and Bioinformatics") was approved and launched with support from the European Commission in March, 2002 with the aim to analyze the relationships and potential synergies between bioinformatics and medical informatics. This is because, if we want to generate new knowledge from genomic and proteomic data, we need to combine the phenotypes, genotypes and proteotype of very large numbers of patients. For this purpose, we need to have such laboratory techniques that can provide the results of the comparison of genomic and proteomic test quickly and accurately. When all data types are represented in a standardized and structured format, we will be able to realize the value of new genome-based technologies very easily and will also be able to apply them for the benefit of individual patients.

Conclusion: Therefore, synergies between the BI and the MI domain exist as both the domains profit from new techniques and developments either in the field of biotechnology or informatics such as microarray technology, computer science and mathematics, machine learning etc. and thus provides new directions to our research in public health care sectors.

About Author / Additional Info:
A student of M.Tech Bioinformatics from D.C.E

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