La revolución de la información en la genética

Averiguar los secretos del genoma humano sería imposible sin la manipulación computadorizada de cantidades ingentes de datos, incluida la mayoría de los tres mil millones de unidades químicas que componen el plan maestro genético de nuestra especie, pero lo que esa revolución de la "bioinformática" ha aportado, por encima de todo, es la confirmación absoluta de la base evolutiva de toda la vida en la Tierra.

Los datos sobre secuencias, ya se refieran a proteínas o a ácidos nucleicos, se prestan muy bien al tratamiento informático, porque son fáciles de digitalizar y descomponer en sus unidades constitutivas. Programas informáticos simples pueden comparar dos o más ristras de dichas unidades y evaluar los grados de similitud, buscar en enormes bases de datos para comparar las nuevas secuencias con las ya conocidas y juntar grupos de secuencias en forma de árbol genealógico.

Las consecuencias de la investigación de las primeras proteínas estudiadas hace casi medio siglo fueron profundas. Todas aquellas secuencias eran bastante pequeñas -la insulina tiene unos cincuenta aminoácidos, según las especies-, pero la variación entre las especies resultaba clara.

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