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Computational Science Applications in Medicine
  • Applications in Medicine


    Tracking the Footsteps of AIDS: Who Infected Whom?

    In Florida in the late 1980s, a cluster of six people contracted HIV. Finding the source of the infection was a top priority for health officials. But because the AIDS virus mutates so quickly, tracking the source through ordinary means would be impossible.

    So scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) turned to the technique of DNA sequence analysis. They examined the DNA of the virus in each patient and analyzed it with the help of huge computer databases that contain more information than many large libraries. To do this, they needed an efficient way to sort and compare the data.

    The scientists knew that similarities between DNA sequences would point them to the original source of the infection. And their efforts paid off. It turned out that all six patients had contracted the virus from their HIV-positive dentist, who did not use gloves or other protective gear in the examination room.

    In a course called "Computational Biology" you'll use Java and database-mining tools such as BLAST to build your own understanding of DNA and RNA sequence analysis and alignment.

    This is only one example of how computational science can be used to advance the study of medicine.