HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee

Science • Humans
Scientists rename human genes to avoid Microsoft Excel misreading them as dates
Scientists rename human genes to avoid Microsoft Excel misreading them as dates

Scientists have renamed some 27 human genes over the past year to avoid Microsoft Excel misinterpreting their alphanumeric codes as dates.

These codes are used as a shorthand method for researchers to identify the genes in the human genome. Sometimes, though, they end up reading as something else. For instance, the gene symbol for Septin 2, SEPT2, defaults to the date '2-Sep' when typed into Excel, while Membrane-Associated Ring Finger, aka MARCH1, becomes '1-Mar'.

The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) defined guidelines for naming protein-coding genes, RNA genes, and pseudogenes to avoid such mishaps. The instructions further say gene symbols should only contain Latin letters and Arabic numerals; should not contain common abbreviations; should not refer to any particular species; should not be offensive, and should be unique.