How computers help biologists crack life’s secrets

Once the three-billion-letter-long human genome was sequenced, we rushed into a new “omics” era of biological research. Scientists are now racing to sequence the genomes (all the genes) or proteomes (all the proteins) of various organisms – and in the process are compiling massive amounts of data. For instance, a scientist can use “omics” tools such as DNA sequencing to tease out which human genes are affected in a viral flu infection. But because the human genome has at least 25,000 genes in total, the number of genes altered even under such a simple scenario could potentially be in the thousands. Although sequencing and identifying genes and proteins gives them a name and a place, it doesn’t tell us what they do. We need to understand how these genes, proteins…


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