Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Virginia Tech Scientist Proposes Revolutionary Naming System for All Life on Earth

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Boris Vinatzer has developed a new way to classify and name organisms based on genome sequencing.

A Virginia Tech researcher has developed a new way to classify and name organisms based on their genome sequence and in doing so created a universal language that scientists can use to communicate with unprecedented specificity about all life on Earth.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE, Boris Vinatzer proposes moving beyond the current biological naming system to one based on the genetic sequence of each individual organism. This creates a more robust, precise, and informative name for any organism, be it a bacterium, fungus, plant, or animal.

Vinatzer, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, suggests a new model of classification that not only crystallizes the way we identify organisms but also enhances and adds depth to the naming convention developed by the godfather of genus, Carl Linnaeus. Scientists worldwide have used the system that Linnaeus created for more than 200 years.

“Genome sequencing technology has progressed immensely in recent years and it now allows us to distinguish between any bacteria, plant, or animal at a very low cost," said Vinatzer, who is also with the Fralin Life Science Institute. “The limitation of the Linnaeus system is the absence of a method to name the sequenced organisms with precision.”

Vinatzer does not propose changing the naming convention of existing biological classification. Instead, the new naming system is meant to add further information to classify organisms within named species and to more rapidly identify new ones since the process depends solely on the organism’s genetic code.

A genome-based naming system could be particularly helpful to public health officials who live in an age of constant vigilance against biological threats. In his paper, Vinatzer used the anthrax strain that appeared in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as an example of the limitations of the current taxonomy-based system.

Weaponized anthrax frustrated officials as the powder found its way to offices in the United States and the ensuing investigation took months for law enforcement to identify the origin of the original pathogen as the Ames strain.

More than 1,200 strains of anthrax - or Bacillus anthracis - exist. Each one possesses an arbitrary name chosen by researchers that does nothing to illuminate genetic similarities.

With the naming scheme developed by Vinatzer, the name of every single anthrax strain would contain the information of how similar it is to other strains. Using Vinatzer’s genome sequence, the Ames strain used in the bioterrorist attack would, for example, be known as lvlw0x and the ancestor of this strain stored at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases would be known as lvlwlx.

Vinatzer’s naming convention would also give researchers the ability to name new pathogens in a matter of days - not months or years - based on their similarities to known pathogens.

The proposed naming process begins by sampling and sequencing an organism’s DNA. The sequence is then used to generate a code unique to that individual organism based on its similarity to all previously sequenced organisms.

The advantages to Vinatzer’s method over the Linnaeus system are many.

Coded names could be permanent, as opposed to the shifting of names typical in the current biological classification system. Codes could also be assigned without the current lengthy process that is required by analyzing one organism’s physical traits compared to another’s. Lastly, the sequence could be assigned to viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals and would provide a standardized naming system for all life on Earth.

Vinatzer cites one plant pathogen - Ralstonia solanacearum - as an example of the roller coaster of rotating name changes that exists in the world of plant pathogens. The pathogen went through three costume changes of names and was originally called Bacillus solanacearum, which then became Pseudomonas solanacearum, and then Burkholderia solanacearum before finally resting on Ralstonia.

Vinatzer has previously used genome sequencing with great success. In 2009, he and a collaborator were able to trace a pathogen that was devastating kiwifruit crops around the world back to China.

Virginia Tech is submitting a patent describing the naming scheme. Vinatzer and his collaborator Lenwood Heath, a professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering founded This Genomic Life Inc., which will license the invention to develop it further.

Heath oversaw the development of the bioinformatic pipeline to implement the system. He was interested in collaborating with Vinatzer because of the potential to empower scientists to communicate accurately with one another about biological systems.

“I work in computation, so having the opportunity to impart my knowledge by ordering the organic world through numbered sequences of DNA was fascinating,” Heath said. “The mathematical world and the living world are a lot more closely related than we think.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,600+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Invasive Species Could Cause Billions in Agriculture Damages
Invasive insects and pathogens could be a multi-billion-dollar threat to global agriculture and developing countries may be the biggest target, according to a team of international researchers.
Genetic Research Can Significantly Improve Drug Development
With drug development costs topping $1.2bn (£850 million) to get a single treatment to the point it can be sold and used in the clinic, could genetic analysis save hundreds of millions of dollars?
What Makes a Good Scientist?
It’s the journey, not just the destination that counts as a scientist when conducting research.
Scoliosis Linked to Disruptions in Spinal Fluid Flow
A new study in zebrafish suggests that irregular fluid flow through the spinal column brought on by gene mutations is linked to a type of scoliosis that can affect humans during adolescence.
More Research Needed to Ensure Gene Drive Safety
Gene-Drive modified organisms are not ready to be released into environment a new report calls for more research and robust assessment.
Genetic Basis of Petunia Variation Uncovered
A large international team of researchers, including scientists from Wageningen University, have now sequenced the entire genome of two different wild petunia species, and published this in the important scientific journal Nature Plants.
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe
Distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding becoming less clear, says new report on GE crops.
Breeding More Climate Resilient Brassicas
Scientists at the John Innes Centre have discovered how a gene that helps determine plant flowering time could help us breed better brassicas in the face of climate change.
One Step Closer To Developing Non-Allergenic 'Super' Peanuts
Scientists from The University of Western Australia have joined a global research team that have identified genes in peanuts that when altered will be able to prevent an allergic response in humans.
Developing Non-Allergenic 'Super' Peanuts
Scientists from The University of Western Australia have joined a global research team that have identified genes in peanuts that when altered will be able to prevent an allergic response in humans.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,600+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!