Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wolfram Alpha as a bioinformatics tool

Just released last week by the makers of Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha is kind of like a search engine, calling itself a "computational knowledge engine," with the lofty goal as a "long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone."

From their homepage you can link to a page showing examples of how to use it, but I was interested in seeing how much biology Wolfram Alpha knows, and I've got to say I'm impressed with the results.

(Note: their servers are pretty busy I guess, so if the links don't work the first time, or the search times out, try reloading.)

Check out the results I got when I searched for APOE. It correctly interpreted the fact that I wanted information about the human gene, and accordingly gave me information about the gene and its location, along with a chromosome ideogram, a reference sequence, splice structures, and more.

I was also impressed to see what happened when I entered a random string of ACGT's. It correctly interpreted my query as a nucleotide sequence, told me the amino acid sequence it would make, correctly guessed how often this sequence would be found in the genome if bases occur randomly, and gave me gene names, positions, and ideograms of the places where this sequence is actually found in the human genome.

Finally, I tried searching for a SNP that I have an interest in.

For being only days old, and for not being specifically developed as a bioinformatics tool, it's pretty impressive what it can do already. It should be interesting to see what else they come up with.


  1. Be sure you're clear on their terms of use. They claim copyright over all their results pages and require attribution.


  2. It is a really cool tool that you can enter a gene name and get so much info returned to you. This could catch on quickly.


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Getting Genetics Done by Stephen Turner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.