Immunology | Avoiding Babylonian


The complexity of the immune system at the gene, protein, cell and organism level continues to provide a major challenge. Genomic landscape analysis, single-cell analysis and mass data acquisition encompassing genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics have now added new levels of complexity. With the rapid progress in these and other fields of immunology, it has become more important than ever to agree on a nomenclature, i.e. to agree on a consensus for naming novel genes, proteins, cells and biological reagents related to the immune system. Names that were given initially may, in retrospect, not always be logical. In addition, researchers approaching a gene product from different angles may generate entirely different names for the same gene product. An example is the cytokine Interleukin-6, which was initially known as B-cell stimulatory factor 2; cytotoxic T lymphocyte differentiation factor; hybridoma growth factor; hepatocyte stimulating factor and interferon beta-2. In these cases, such usage of different names for the same item can lead to confusion and this may hinder progress in the field. Therefore, it is important for the experts in the immunology field to agree on a unified nomenclature.

The immunological community has, in fact, an excellent track record of conducting worldwide cooperative efforts on nomenclature issues. Remarkable examples of these include the establishment of the nomenclature for antigen receptor (IG and TR) genes, cytokines and chemokines and their receptors, as well as allergens, cell types and of the CD nomenclature for monoclonal antibodies.

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