The application of computers, databases, and computational methods to the capture and interpretation of biological data defines the field of bioinformatics. This is an integrative discipline, combining computer science, mathematics, physics, and biology, and is essential for almost every aspect of data management in molecular biology. Numerous organisms have been sequenced, either completely or to near completion. The bacteria Haemophilus influenzae was the first genome to be sequenced completely (1). This was followed by sequencing of the first eukaryotic genome, the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (2). Other organisms followed, including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (3), the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (4), and the mouse Mus musculus (5). A working draft of the human genome was released in February 2001 (6), with fine sequencing continuing. Bioinformatics has played a critical role in the sequencing of all these organisms.
Genome sequencing of multicellular organisms, as well as many bacterial and viral pathogens, is key to our understanding of the molecular basis of inherited, somatic, and infectious diseases. Sequencing itself, however, is not the end; we also need to know the function of the genes. The mapping of the human genome will impact biomedical research, diagnosis, vaccines, therapeutics, and preventative health care, ultimately allowing for better patient management. The future of bioinformatics is limitless and will continue to impact many fields, including molecular diagnostics.
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