Computational Biology: A Brief Introduction

From Anonymous’s answer via Quora:

Computational Biology is the use of computer models to study or analyze biological systems. Typically, computational biology is good for studying biological systems that:

  1. Are made up of hundreds or thousands or millions of components
  2. The components are relatively simple

For these kinds of objects, looking at them under a microscope or in a lab or something doesn’t really help you see how the pieces fit together, there are just too many things to keep track of them all.

Instead, computational biologists work with computer models that simulate the rules of how the components interact. Then they can make changes to the simulated components or the rules and see how the results are different, or analyze what must be going on to match the results seen in the lab.

Some biological systems often studied by Computation Biology are:

  1. DNA, computational biology is needed to understand basically anything about DNA. It is used to assemble the tiny pieces of individually-sequenced DNA into one long genome, to compare genomes of different individuals or species, look at how a species has evolved over time, and to try and model what each gene is doing. I think most computational biology is dealing with genetics.
  2. Neurons: look at how groups of neurons work together in the brain, model different types of brain structure or entire brains.
  3. Drugs: pharmaceutical companies analyze the interactions between drugs and human systems as thoroughly as they can with computer models before switching to more-expensive tests on animals or humans. Computer modeling also helps find new drugs.

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