January 20, 2022

BBS Connect

Bridging You To The Outside World

Extraordinary Crimes and Bioinformatics on the Crossroad

After the curtain was closed for the cold war era, the world was still in the state of political uncertainty. The warring strategies of the belligerent parties have been shifted from conventional towards asymmetrical warfare. Notorious examples include cracking military and financial information from the cyberspace, chemo-terrorism, and bioterrorism. This kind of warfare could not be mitigated nor prevented with the ordinary military decision. The Proper instrument should be put in place to ensure complete victory in this cyber war. Then, one field of study emerges to fill the void. Enter the Bioinformatics. As the new interdisciplinary study that mixes biological and informatics knowledge, the extraction of fine-grained information from biological sequences comparison is its main task. The application from this field is enormous, ranging from the pharmaceutical, green energy, and even to environmental research. Forensic science also gained benefits from the application of bioinformatics.

The terrible terrorist attacks due in our country years ago have eventually surprised the public. The sequences of Bali bombing and Australian embassy bombing have unleashed the never-ending fear towards the perpetrators. The desperate terrorist strategies of suicide bombing are one of the biggest fear of the designated target. After the horrible bombing attack occurred, basically nothing left to be seen from the perpetrators or the victims. This is the common problem in forensic science that insufficient biological samples will eventually lead to the wrong identification of perpetrators. Proper identification proved to be very difficult if only debris and dust remain. Hence, the advanced technique of molecular biology enters the scene to recover the existing biological information. The field of Mitochondrial research has grown in since decades ago, thus the viability of mitochondrial DNA has enabled fast-track recovery of the perpetrator’s bio information for proper identification. In this end, the fingerprint of Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in the mitochondrial DNA could be utilized for comparison with the maternal SNP. The identification step needs the science of bioinformatics because it is basically sequence alignment between query and database templates. In some developed countries, the police have made a proprietary database of criminal’s mitochondrial DNA in order to facilitate fast identification of perpetrators. This development has reformed forensic science into the realm of informatics. The American movie series of ‘Crime Scene Investigation’ (CSI) has popularized forensic science and raising the popularity of bioinformatics by showing biological sequences in their movie scenes.

Improvement in SNP research shows that Bioinformatics has essentially phased out the conventional method of sequence alignment when the scientist should draw biological sequences on the wall or whiteboard to compare them. This is the so-called modernity of biological science when obtaining information in a matter of seconds is feasible at our fingertips. However, this versatility would eventually face the much bigger challenge that threatens the very end of humanity itself. More damaging crimes, such as bioterrorism, could pose even greater difficulties for bioinformaticians to resolve in an efficient manner.


By: Dr.rer.nat. Arli Aditya Parkesit, Head of BioInformatics Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences (i3L). This article has been published in i3L newsletter: https://i3l.ac.id/webnew/newsevent/154

Featured image taken from: http://www.sciencemag.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_main_large/public/images/13%20June%202014.jpg?itok=DPBy5nLZ

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