It seems that it is easier to change the whole nomenclature of the genes, than to deactivate the Excel date auto-format …
This is one of those news that leaves us confused. The scientific community has decided to rename 27 human genes, because Excel confused them with dates. Wouldn’t it have been easier to ask Microsoft for an option to disable date auto-format?
The curious story is revealed to us by The Verge, who has been speaking with the geneticists in charge of the subject. It is a problem that scientists have suffered for years, because Excel gives you to change words by dates, and there is no option to disable this automatic feature.
The human genome is made up of tens of thousands of genes, the different combinations of which make each person unique. In order to carry out studies and comparisons, these genes have a name made up of letters and numbers. And this is where the fun begins …
The solution to improve the storage of large amounts of information is in the DNA and Microsoft has decided to demonstrate it by creating a hard disk based on this theory.
At first there were no rules for naming the genes that scientists were discovering. That is why some have such curious names as Sonic Hedgehog or Indy. Really…
There are also some that are common words, like WARS or CARS. And even others can be interpreted as insults … But the most troublesome are genes named like MARCH1, which comes from Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1. There are some similar ones, such as SEP1, than Excel automatically transforms them into dates when it detects them. For example MARCH1 on March 1, and SEP1 on September 1.
Many geneticists use Excel to manage tables with gene sequences. They are data that they exchange with colleagues, studies or test results, and when Excel changes the names of the genes by dates it produces serious errors that alter the results.
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To put an end to these problems once and for all, a Gene Nomenclature Committee has been created, the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) that, with the blessing of the entire scientific community, He has renamed 27 genes that cause problems with Excel. For example MARCH1 has been renamed MARCHF1, and SEP1, SEPF1. The same has been done with those who represent words. WARS is now called WARS1, and CARS has become CARS1.
From now on, there are a series of rules for naming new genes: only Latin and Arabic letters and numbers can be used, and no known words are allowed, or that sound like an insult or joke …
Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have 3D printed a rabbit that has DNA with instructions to replicate itself.
The question immediately arises:and it would not have been easier to ask Microsoft to update Excel with a button that disables the conversion of words into dates?
HNGC coordinator Elspeth Bruford explains it in The Verge. Microsoft is probably not interested in adding an extra option just to satisfy a very limited number of users.
But the real reason is much stronger: Science is eternal, and software programs do not. Perhaps in a few years Excel will no longer be used, and it will happen again with another application. By now changing the names of the genes and establishing rules, these new names will last forever, no matter what software is used.