Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
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 4,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,300+ 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.

Related Content

Uncovering Bacteria's Antibiotic Resistance
Scientists determine the structure and mechanisms of enzyme that deactivates an important antibiotic - rifampicin.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Researchers Find Fungus-Fighting Compound
A compound has been identifed that blocks growth of a fungus responsible for lung infections and allergic reactions.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Gene Could Reduce Female Mosquitoes
Virginia Tech researchers have found a gene that can reduce female mosquitoes over many generations.
Friday, September 23, 2016
Pesticides Used to Help Bees May Actually Harm Them
Pesticides beekeepers are using to improve honeybee health may actually be harming the bees by damaging the bacteria communities in their guts, according to a team led by a Virginia Tech scientist.
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Gene Drive Strategy to Combat Harmful Virus Spread
Life science researchers suggest gene drive strategy to combat harmful virus spread.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Mechanisms of How Body Remembers, Fights Infections
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists find new evidence of immune system plasticity.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Novel Tumor Treatment
In the first published results from a $386,000 National Cancer Institute grant awarded earlier this year, a paper by Scott Verbridge and Rafael Davalos has been published.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Improving Antibiotic Effectiveness
New drug approach could offer relief to patients, hospitals fighting antibiotic resistance.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Cancer Markers May be Present Early During Human Development
Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have uncovered a link between the genomes of cells originating in the neural crest and development of tumors — a discovery that could lead to new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.
Friday, August 07, 2015
New Tech Enables Epigenomic Analysis with a Mere 100 Cells
A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer has been developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Compound To Combat Malaria Parasite Identified
Study identifies non-mevalonate pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis as key antimalarial drug target.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Superior Ability To Rapidly Detect Volatile Organic Compounds
Researchers develop a credit-card-sized gas chromatography platform that can analyze volatile compounds within seconds.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Genome-Editing Tool Bolsters Efforts To Thwart 'Deadliest' Animal
Researchers at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute have turbocharged a red-hot new technology to make it more efficient to make changes in mosquito genetics.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Elucidating Odor Properties of Elk River Contaminants
Virginia Tech researchers utilized olfactory gas chromatography to pinpoint the concentrations of contaminants in the air.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Researchers Discover Evidence to Support Theory of 'Buckyball' Formation
Researchers have reported the first experimental evidence that supports the theory that a soccer ball-shaped nanoparticle is the result of a breakdown of larger structures.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Scientific News
Big Genetics in BC: The American Society for Human Genetics 2016 Meeting
Themes at this year's meeting ranged from the verification, validation, and sharing of data, to the translation of laboratory findings into actionable clinical results.
Stem Cells in Drug Discovery
Potential Source of Unlimited Human Test Cells, but Roadblocks Remain.
Automated Low Volume Dispensing Trends
Gain a better understanding of the current and future market requirements for fully automated LVD systems.
Cancer Genetics: Key to Diagnosis, Therapy
When applied judiciously, cancer genetics directs caregivers to the right drug at the right time, while sparing patients of unnecessary or harmful treatments.
Diabetes Missing Link Discovered
Researchers from the University of Auckland have shown that beta catenin plays a vital role in the control of insulin release from the pancreas.
Study Reveals New Role for Hippo Pathway in Suppressing Cancer Immunity
Hippo pathway signaling regulates organ size by moderating cell growth, apoptosis and stem cell renewal, but dysregulation contributes to cancer development.
Biological Link between the Gut Microbiome and Parkinson’s Disease
The findings suggest that targeting the gut microbiome may provide a new approach for diagnosing and treating Parkinson’s disease.
How the Brain Recognizes Faces
Machine-learning system spontaneously reproduces aspects of human neurology.
Boosting Effectiveness of Asthma Therapy
A team of scientists from UCSF has developed a new treatment to dampen bronchospasm.
Improved Stability, Shelf Life of Protein Drugs
Study improves protein drug stability and extend their shelf life by tested a novel route for non-covalent protein modification.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
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
4,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!