The current century is the time of integration of different disciplines and in-silico biology is apparently one of them. In this post, we will talk about the terminology of in-silico biology and distinguish between in-silico biology, computational biology, bioinformatics and systems biology.
Terminology of in-silico biology
In-silico Biology is a compound name that is apparently composed of two words, In-silico and Biology! In-silico is a term that means “done on a computer”. In-silico biology is mostly used for referring to the computational modeling of biological systems, however, in its simplest and most general form means all biological investigations and analyses that are done via computers. Also, it is called computational biology and could be divided into different sub-branches, namely Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. However, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology are often used interchangeably.
Different branches of in-silico biology
Bioinformatics and Systems Biology are of the most cutting edge and fast-developing interdisciplinary fields. These subject are quite fascinating due to several reasons. In another post, I explained how I got interested in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. Bioinformatics and Systems Biology could be considered as the combination of biology, informatics, and mathematics especially statistics.
What is systems biology
Systems Biology deals with the reconstruction of complex biological networks and analysis of such networks as well as dynamic modeling of interactions and perturbations in these networks. The most commonly used and well-known software for network reconstruction in the context of Systems Biology is Cytoscape, which is freely available for download. Also, the most commonly reconstructed networks in Systems Biology are coexpression and interaction networks especially protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks. Reconstruction of complex biological networks has several benefits that could be achieved only after their analyses! Actually, through topological analysis of a network, we could find the hub nodes of that network, which most often are the most important and key nodes of the network, and significant modules and clusters of your desired network that are used for further analysis of the network and inferring novel insights from it.
Different branches of bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is categorized under the subject of Biomedical Engineering and is divided into different categories including sequence data analysis and structural bioinformatics. Sequence data analysis is used for the analysis of all biological sequences such as DNA and RNA that have been produced by modern bio-technologies including microarray and next-generation sequencing (NGS). Recently, almost all of the biological studies such as developmental genomics, cancer genomics and transcriptomics, etc. take advantage of the potentials of sequence data analysis to better understand the fundamentals of their biological questions under investigation. On the other hand, structural bioinformatics is the prediction, identification, and optimization of biological entities including DNA, RNA, and protein. Structural bioinformatics is vastly used in protein engineering and computer-aided drug design. Additionally, those who have studied chemistry but would like to perform biomedical research also find structural bioinformatics interesting.
However, there are several other kinds of in-silico works such as the development of biological databases, applications etc. that themselves are as long as could not be explained in this post. Overall, in-silico biology is the use of computer science especially programming and scripting for the (mathematical/statistical) analysis and interpretation of biological data and concepts.