Research Activities In Bioinformatics Speed Up, Innovative Solutions on the Horizon

New tools have been developed and released to empower various applications of bioinformatics and make breakthroughs in finding a cure to fatal diseases and conditions.

The importance of bioinformatics in different applications including genomics, nucleic acids, and proteomics is widely known. Its features such as data management, quantitative & comparative analysis, parallelized data processing, and converting insights into graphs and tables have played a crucial role to find a cure for various fatal diseases and conditions. Research and development activities to find more applications of bioinformatics have gained a traction across the world. New research activities have been shading a light on how bioinformatics tools can be beneficial in the medical sector for various purposes. These activities create huge potential for growth in the bioinformatics industry. According to the research firm Allied Market Research, the global bioinformatics market is expected to $12.8 billion by 2020. Technological advancements have played a crucial part in accelerating research and finding potential solutions. Following are some of the advancements that would play a vital role in the future.

Weed killer commercial herbicide:

Microbe forms a protective shield to gain immunity while producing poisons to kill plant competitors as it grows up in a garden. Specific genes produce that protective shield. A team of researchers at UCLA discovered that this weed killer could become a potential commercial herbicide. With the help of a technique combining genomics and data science, researchers searched for a gene among the thousands of genes of fungi that would offer immunity against poisons. This finding outlined that there is a potential for this approach in the development of drugs and medicines. The applications range from cancer-resistant drugs to antibiotics.

Yi Tang, the study’s co-principal investigator and a UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering along with chemistry and biochemistry, gave an example to explain the discovery and potential application. If there is a microorganism having a resistance gene that protects itself from an anti-bacterial product, there is a possibility that it also has genes producing the same anti-bacterial product. This would lead to the development of new antibacterial medicines. The new herbicide discovered by bioinformatics approach functions on a different pathway in humans that current herbicides. Researchers tested the effectiveness of a new herbicide in the lab. They spread the fungus-produced product on the plant called Arabidopsis. The product killed the plant. Then researchers implanted a resistance gene in the plant. Then plants were immune to the product as the genes provided necessary immunity. Researchers confirmed that the commercial product would need more research along with regulatory approval.

Bioinformatics tool to help in CRISPR-Cas systems:

Researchers have developed new tools to determine CRISPR repeats and Cas genes. The newly developed CRISPRdisco automated pipeline has improved utility and availability of CRISPR-Cas genome editing systems. This software is available for free. It offers standardized and high throughput methods of analysis for the detection of CRISPR repeats and assigns type, subtypes, and class. According to an article published in The CRISPR Journal, Kevin Davies, PhD, Executive Editor of the journal, said, “New bioinformatics tools, programs, and databases are helping to drive the CRISPR revolution and we’re happy to provide a forum for the validation of some of these important platforms.”
In the research, researchers studied 2,777 genomes from NCBI RefSeq database for identification and classification of possible CRISPR-Cas systems. Researchers studied the distinction between complete and incomplete CRISPR systems along with identifying the connection between potentially complete and functional CRISPR-Cas diversity in silico and CRISPR-Cas systems in vivo. This platform has made available for all through GitHub. Moreover, it helps novices to research and characterize CRISPR-Cas systems present in different genomic datasets.

Gene data sharing eases up:

As the world is moving toward storing files and data on the cloud, genomics is no exception. The Large-Scale Genomics Work Stream of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) made an announcement of eight new implementations of its ‘htsget’ protocol. It was a standard revealed in October 2017 for providing the access to large-scale genomic sequencing data on the cloud to eliminate the file transfers. The protocol and interoperability are in a testing phase, according to the paper released online in the journal Bioinformatics.

“Datasets containing hundreds of millions — rather than hundreds of thousands — of sequences will be available within the next five years and sharing files of that size is simply not realistic,” said Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI and Chair of GA4GH. “Users would have to download terabyte-sized files just to access data on a small subset of the genome sequence.”

As the focus of the various industry has shifted toward adoption of big data and cloud-based approaches, genomics has been striving to follow the practice without compromising current standards that enable interoperability of data. Moreover, ‘htsget’ offers a protocol for researchers and scientists to make data stored in different repositories accessible. This protocol also provides a robust security and authentication mechanism for securing the sensitive data.

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