What is bioinformatics – and its associated concepts genomics, proteomics, metabolomics? (see Bioinformatics)
Bioinformatics is the integration of computers, databases and software into efforts to address large biological questions. Approaches to bioinformatics are often used to generate large sets of information or data. Two large-scale clinical bioinformatics domains are applied genomics, and proteomics, the study of proteins. While bioinformatics describes the use of computers to manage biological information — it is both an information science as well as a biological one. In a sense, the definition used most often is even narrower: bioinformatics is a synonym for computational molecular biology or the use of computers to understand living things at a molecular level. (For an introduction to this topic, see this Bioinformatics primer).
Genomics is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes. The totality of all genetic material (deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA) in an organism are organized in a very precise way, though by no means fixed or constant. In the case of viruses, most of them will have ribonucleic acid or RNA as the genetic material.
Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions. This term was coined to make an analogy with genomics, and while it is often viewed as the “next step” in bioinformatics, proteomics is more complicated than genomics. The genome is a constant entity, while the proteome differs from cell to cell, and changes constantly through its interactions with the genome and its environment. One organism has radically different protein expressions in different parts of its body, in different stages of its life cycle and in different environmental conditions.
Metabolomics is the scientific study of chemical processes involving metabolites. Metabolomics is the “systematic study of the unique chemical fingerprints specific cellular processes leave behind”, the study of their small-molecule metabolite profiles. The metabolome represents the collection of metabolites in a biological cell, tissue, organ or organism, which are the end products of cellular processes (Daviss, 2005).