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Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics, in broad terms, basically refers to the analysis of biological concepts on a molecular level using information technology. The cutting edge of the intersection between biology and computer science, this rapidly developing field offers a vast potential for improvement and applications. When dealing with bioinformatics, there are three major areas to consider: algorithms to compare and categorize large data sets, data analysis of different molecular models, effective tools to manage and access data. In addition, there are also three major classifications of data that we can clearly define: genome sequences (DNA, RNA), macromolecules (carbohydrates, lipids), functional genomics (function of specific genes). In addition, one of the large areas of bioinformatics is database management, due to the large amount of information that must be stored before it can actually be quantified and and statistically analyzed. As modern tools are becoming significantly more advanced, bioinformatics is leaning more towards the computational and analytical side of science. An increased number of mathematical techniques and concepts are being incorporated into the field, and more tools are being developed for this purpose. Specifically, a few of the tasks that can be accomplished using bioinformatics include data mining, pattern recognition, sequence alignment, and protein structure visualization. For those interested in using bioinformatics data banks, a number of free online databases are available for use by students and researchers, including the Protein Data Bank.

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Stem Cells – The Future of Modern Medicine

A visual representation of stem cell differentiation

Stem cells comprise one of the most exciting and rapidly developing scientific fields on the cutting edge of modern technology and medicine.The primary characteristic of stem cells is their high pluripotency, which means that they have a high potential to differentiate into different cell types during the early stages of human development. There are 3 major types of stem cells: embryonic, adult, and induced pluripotent with the major difference between the three being the region from which they are derived or obtained. In some tissues, they serve as a type of repair system by replacing cells after cell death, thus effectively maintaining the number of healthy cells in that specific tissue. Another important aspect of stem cells is that, under certain laboratory conditions, they can be induced to become organ-specific cells. However, these function of stem cells varies among different body tissues as shown by the fact that in the bone marrow, stem cells naturally divide on a regular basis in order to replenish damaged portions. However, in the heart or pancreas, this can only be accomplished under very specific artificially-induced conditions. The exact mechanisms that regulate a stem cell’s capability for long-term self renewal remain unknown, but the basic idea is that certain signals during the process of differentiation are responsible. Stem cell research is a rapidly evolving field with an increasingly evident potential in disease diagnosis, therapy, and treatment. The areas in which stem cells are being incorporated today include cardiovascular therapy, diabetes, cancer research, Parkinson’s disease, and renal failure. Although major developments have been made to enhance our understanding of the topic, a number of imperative questions remain shrouded in mystery. In addition, one of the barriers that has seriously impeded the progress of this field are the ethical issues that arise from the controversial research, including privacy issues and the informed consent of using unfertilized eggs/embryos.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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