• Sun, Nov 12 2006

HUGO Changing Offensive Gene Names

Sonic X: Sonic PlushThe fun had to end at some point. Ten genes have been designated by the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) Gene Nomenclature Committee as being in dire need of a name makeover due to their potential to offend. Here are the top five gene symbols and names that are believed to be “inappropriate, demeaning, and pejorative.”

  • LFNG – lunatic fringe homolog (Drosophila)
  • MFNG – manic fringe homolog (Drosophila)
  • RFNG – radical fringe homolog (Drosophila)
  • SHH – sonic hedgehog homolog (Drosophila)
  • IHH – Indian Hedgehog homolog (Drosophila)

HUGO has decided to keep the gene symbols but change the gene names to a non-offensive form where appropriate.

Dr. Chris Doe, professor of biology at the University of Oregon:

It’s a cute name when you have stupid flies and you call it a ‘turnip.’ When it’s linked to development in humans, it’s not so cute any more.

Other quirky gene names include:

  • headcase
  • mothers against decapentaplegia (MAD)
  • one-eyed pinhead
  • faint sausage
  • fear of intimacy
  • tribbles
  • groucho
  • smurf
  • sex lethal
  • death executioner Bcl-2
  • Prospero
  • Miranda

Do you think the name change is reasonable? Or do you think we’re going full throttle PC (politically correct)?

NB: The Neurophilosopher has a list of his favourite funky gene names.
Strategic Name Development has more about nomenclature in science.

new@nature.com, November 6, 2006
New York Times, November 12, 2006

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What We're Reading:
Share This Post:
  • http://www.marymeetsdolly.com/blog Rebecca Taylor

    At first glance it might seem just a PC move, but I can sympathize with genetic counselors who have to explain things to a patient. “Yes, you have a mutation in your Sonic Hedgehog gene.”

    It just makes the genetics field look like a bunch of uncaring, 20 somethings, who pay Xbox in between experiments.

  • Andrew Ravanelli

    I think the Political Correctness-istas, are going too far. I work on many of these genes and they are indelible in medical science. Most genes originally identified in Drosophila (fruit flies) were named based on the appearance the fly had when the gene was mutated. Many of these genes have homologs in vertebrates, including humans. To keep the scientific community unified, most gene names are kept the same between species. This way, scientists who study human disease can better translate what is known from other species, keeping scientific progress moving swiftly. I work with both mouse and human gene mutations that cause disease and have not encountered patients offended by the name of the gene causing their disease. Few diseases are named for the gene mutation causing it. Most diseases are named after the physician or researcher who discovered the disease. It seems more prudent to let the scientific community work to solve and cure genetic diseases than make them worry about the political correctness of how genes are named.

  • Pingback: Matthias Wjst - Science Surf · HUGO Changing Offensive Gene Names

  • Pingback: messaginglab reads and writes » links for 2006-11-15

  • Johnson Rodger Johnson

    I think people need to take the poles out of their asses as far as this issue is concerned. There’s a certain creed of human who feels compelled to be positively maudlin regarding any and all fathomable issues, and way too much is done to appease this creed, to the detriment of the quality of life for those who understand that laughter is still the best medicine of all.

  • a

    a name is just a name. names are not evil, only humans are.

  • Patrick Lang

    Um… who exactly are the names “lunatic fringe homolog” or “radical fringe homolog” offensive to? Has anyone that self-identifies as “lunatic fringe” or “radical fringe” actually complained?

  • CG

    What they decide to change it to won’t really matter. Scientists will keep calling it what they’ve been calling it in the literature for years.

  • M99

    Science and politics don’t mix so leave the scientists alone. They should be 100% free to do their work without interference from the rest of the society.