Implications of the Continuum of Bioinformatics

Peter C. Johnson, TissueInformatics, Inc.

The once impenetrable complexity of biology has come face to face with rapidly expanding microprocessing power and information management solutions, and this confluence is changing our world. The parallel development of tools needed to extract biological meaning from DNA, proteins, cells, tissues, organisms, and society as a whole has set the stage for improved understanding of biological mechanisms. This is being augmented by our ability to manage this information in uniform ways and to ask questions about relationships across broad levels of biological scale. This multiscalar description of biology from the molecular to the societal, with all of the tools needed to draw correlations across its landscape, is known as the continuum of bioinformatics (COB).

Though presently immature, the COB is growing in richness daily. Driven initially by the need to manage DNA and protein sequence data, it has grown with the inclusion of cellular imaging, tissue analysis, radiological imaging, and societal healthcare informatics inputs. It is presently virtual but, like the Internet before it, it is being tied together through the development of standard systems, query tools, and security measures. As it develops, the COB is changing our world through the enhancement of our understanding of biological process and the acceleration of development of products that can benefit man, animals, and plants. The unusual precision with which biological data is represented within the COB is making it possible to reduce the degrees of freedom normally accorded biological understanding — and therefore to enable the individualization of solutions that will protect life.

Nanotechnology will play a major role in the development of information gathering and processing systems for the COB.

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