Nature 439, 266 (19 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439266d; Published online 18 January 2006

Humour of gene names lost in translation to patients

Ken Maclean1

  1. Developmental Biology Unit, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, 384 Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, New South Wales 2010, Australia


The choice of a gene name can have unforeseen consequences in addition to infringement of trademark ("Pokémon blocks gene name" Nature 438, 897; 2005). The quirky sense of humour that researchers display in choosing a gene name often loses much in translation when people facing serious illness or disability are told that they or their child have a mutation in a gene such as Sonic hedgehog, Slug or Pokemon.

As with the acronym CATCH22 (from 'cardiac anomaly, T-cell deficit, clefting and hypocalcaemia') for chromosome 22q11.2 microdeletions, which was abandoned because of its no-win connotations (J. Burn J. Med. Genet. 36, 737–738; 1999), researchers need to be mindful when naming genes and syndromes.