Renaming genes was easier than waiting for an update, the scientists explained.
The Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) has released updated guidelines for the naming of 27 human genes. The reason for the change was the automatic formatting of gene names to dates in Microsoft Excel, explains The Verge.
Scientists often use Excel spreadsheets, but due to the nature of the program, they regularly encounter inconveniences. The program takes the names of some genes for dates. For example, this concerns the MARCH1 gene, which Excel identifies as “March 1”, or SEPT1 – “September 1”.
Due to transformations, scientists often find errors in works, including those that have been licensed. The Verge claims that in 2016, experts analyzed almost 4 thousand works, and found errors in about one in five.
You cannot turn off automatic formatting, and the only way to avoid errors is to change the data type for individual columns. But if, for example, another scientist loads the data without preliminary formatting, then the program will convert the names of the genes.
To avoid mistakes, scientists renamed 27 genes within a year. The final recommendations were released in August. MARCH1 is now called MARCHF1, SEPT1 is SEPTIN1, and so on. HGNC will retain the former names to avoid confusion.
Elspeth Bruford, HGNC Coordinator, explained that renaming genes is easier than waiting for Excel to update. “This is a rather limited use case for Excel software,” she explained. Microsoft did not respond to The Verge’s request.