Dna

Cells

Tissue

Organism

Figure C.5. Multiple scales of biological activity and form comprise the entire organism. The Continuum of Bioinformatics is an information system that includes and can correlate information from all of these scales of data. Though not shown in the figure, the aggregation of individual data into societal data (as in the form of healthcare statistics) is extremely valuable, since it places the individual's data within the context of the society as a whole.

A simple way to look at this issue is to first note that to be useful in the COB context, all biological data must first be captured using techniques that enable its ultimate conversion to digital form. The mechanisms differ, depending upon the point in the COB under consideration. Table C.3 shows the levels of the COB and the tools needed to capture data digitally at the proper level of discretion to enable computerized correlation between data pools.

Table C.3

Tools required to capture human biological information at different levels of scale, constituting the Continuum Of Bioinformatics

Table C.3

Tools required to capture human biological information at different levels of scale, constituting the Continuum Of Bioinformatics

Biological Scale

Tools For Information Capture

DNA, Genes

DNA Sequencers Electrophoresis Affinity Microarrays

Proteins

Electrophoresis Mass Spectrometry Affinity Microarrays

Cells

Bioassays Fluorescent probes Digital Imaging

Tissues

Digital Imaging Hyperquantitative Analysis

Organism

Digital Radiology (X-Ray, CT, MRI, PET) Chemistry Data Healthcare Record

Society

Aggregated Healthcare Records

Ideally, information at all levels of scale would be captured from the same individual and then aggregated into a societal record. Since this is unpractical, aggregated information will most likely be used, and this will grow richer over time. Privacy concerns are often raised when highly discrete and potentially predictive personal information is gathered in this way. However, it is most likely that COB data (as this virtual network begins to merge together) will be anonymized sufficiently so that individuals will be protected. Indeed, one way to look at the COB is to envision it as a powerful reference database against which an individual's data can be compared in order to provide an individual with contextual information regarding his or her health at any point in time. This is the essence of what is known as "Systems Biology," as well.

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