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In an opinion article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leaders in the field of molecular pathology advocate for the standardization of gene product naming among medical professionals and scientists.

Published Feb 15th, 2021

By Lindsay Lyle
lalyle@health.southalabama.edu

Ambiguous names for gene products have the potential to harm patients whose treatments rely on the results of laboratory tests, including molecular and genetic tests.

In an opinion article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leaders in the field of molecular pathology advocate for the standardization of gene product naming among medical professionals and scientists.

Thuy Phung, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at the USA College of Medicine and director of molecular genetic pathology and dermatopathology, is one of the paper’s senior authors.

“Confusion and misrepresentation of gene product (biomarker) names could potentially lead to serious medical errors and/or errors in the scientific literature,” Phung said.

A gene product is the RNA or protein that results from the expression of a gene. The problem is, at the present time, different names are often used for the same gene product. Adding to the confusion, the same name is sometimes used for unrelated gene products.

“At best, the current situation results in inefficient communication; at worst, it creates harm from misunderstanding test results and making inappropriate therapeutic choices,” the article states. “Names matter. Clearly, a better naming convention that eliminates this type of ambiguity is necessary. Our goal is to prevent the harms caused by ambiguous gene product nomenclature.”

To mitigate this confusion, Phung and other leaders in the field recommend standardizing human protein nomenclature through the use of a Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) gene symbol accompanied by its unique HGNC ID.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences, is an authoritative source of high-impact, original research. It is one of the world's most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals.

Read the full article: “Opinion: Standardizing gene product nomenclature – a call to action.”

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