Hello. How are you? Today is a really beautiful day, the snow has recently melted and the warm sun is very comfortable. With some music in the background, I just have to write. A very relaxing pastime I would say. You know, these days I was wondering about the difference between computational biology, bioinformatics and systems biology, and you know what? I have an incredible confusion in my head. Searching the net, you end up entering a mystical dimension made of emptiness, anguish, discouragement and ignorance. I’m not kidding, it seems that no one wants to agree on how these three disciplines stand out and relate to each other. Sometimes they seem synonymous. Other times it is not clear how these are connected to each other, there are those who say that based on who you ask you could get different answers. In short, a real disaster. Therefore I decided to unbalance myself and find the true meaning of these, in fact I think that each one of these disciplines refers to something different but at the same time they are closely linked to each other.

I think it’s best to start talking about the systems biology. This is a discipline that studies the functioning of an organism as a whole through models which hypothesize the functioning of the latter through an approach computational mathematical of type holistic. For the construction of these models it is necessary to take into account the interactions that occur at several levels of the organism. That is, we must ask ourselves what happens at the level of the genome, the transcriptome, the proteome and the cellular metabolism of this. Precisely for this reason systems biology makes strong reference to the omics sciences. The discipline that allows information relating to the single levels mentioned above to be obtained is the computational biology.

Computational biology it is also a discipline based on models, but which allow information not to be drawn about the whole organism but only about the intricate interaction networks between genes, RNAs, proteins and the various metabolites that mark the biochemistry and therefore its functioning. We can therefore assume that systems biology summarizes all the information and knowledge given by computational biology to understand the behavior of an entire organism under consideration.

But at this point many of you may be wondering what bioinformatics has to do with all of this. Well, the bioinformatics it is the basis of computational biology and systems biology. This discipline, in fact, has the purpose of using and creating IT tools (software in practice) in order to collect, process and statistically analyze all those biological data which become more and more abundant thanks to the advent of NGS techniques.

In short, as you can well understand from what is written above, systems biology, computational biology and bioinformatics are closely linked to each other, almost as if one included the other, or again, as if they were perfectly complementary.

I think that to make the idea better we can imagine these three disciplines placed inside a pyramid, where at the base we find bioinformatics with its tools, capable of solving biological problems and drawing useful information to build models that explain the functioning of interactions. that occur at different levels within an organism thanks to computational biology, and then at the apex of the pyramid we find systems biology that draws inspiration from the models of computational biology to create a general model that explains the functioning of an entire biological system as it can for example the human organism.

Are you still a little confused? Well then let’s take a practical example:

The Human Genome Project was a huge international study aimed at understanding the human system through general models that hypothesize its functioning on the basis of computational models applied at the genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic level. The construction of these models took place on the basis of biological data collected and analyzed using specific bioinformatics tools.

Well, I hope at this point you have at least clearer the distinction between these three different disciplines and how they interact with each other. Now I’m going to enjoy the hot photons of the sun for a few more moments. But before saying goodbye, we of Bioinformaticamente, we ask you, if you consider this article valid, to leave a “like”, to share it and to leave a comment below. Your opinion is fundamental for us.

Thank you. See you soon.

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