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Scientists at the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee have changed the names for certain genes that don’t play well with Excel. That’s because some genes, like SEPT1, auto-format to dates in Excel spreadsheets (the committee renamed that gene SEPTIN1, for example). They outline the new standards in an article published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Human genes and Excel data entries simply don’t get along.
According to the Human Genome Project, we each have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes inside our bodies, which constitute our physical characteristics. Because we have so many genes, scientists give each a unique name, according to the National Institutes of Health.
But the nomenclature can be lengthy and technical, so researchers routinely shorten them with an abbreviated version, called a symbol. A gene on chromosome 7 that has been associated with fibrosis—cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator—becomes CFTR, for example.
Just one problem: Excel does not play nice with certain gene symbols, converting them into dates. That’s extremely problematic, as researchers must be able to share massive amounts of data. They can’t turn off auto-formatting options, and even changing the data type for certain columns can still introduce errors.
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Experts with the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC)—the standards organization for naming genes, based in Hinxton, England—have had enough. They’ve published an article in the journal Nature Genetics, outlining a new set of rules for naming certain genes (and the corresponding proteins they express) that give rise to data entry errors.
“Standardized gene naming is crucial for effective communication about genes, and as genomics becomes increasingly important
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