So there may have briefly been a cancer-causing gene that was named “Pokemon.” That is, until Nintendo found out about it.
Dr. Lava doesn’t have a Ph.D., but he is still the world’s premier Pokémon historian on Twitter. His latest tidbit recalls that one time Nintendo had to almost sue a hospital research group for trying to name a cancer-causing gene “Pokemon.”
Discovered back in the early 2000s by geneticist Pier Paolo Pandolfi from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the gene acts as a master switch for cancer and is thought to be responsible for causing cancer in surrounding cells. The gene was first published in the January issue of Nature in 2005, but first it needed a catchy name.
Pandolfi came up with the catchy name of “POK Erythroid Myeloid ONtogenic factor,” or “Pokemon” for short. It’s a great name and one that would have been great to read in scientific journals, but Nintendo had other plans.
Fearing that the name Pokemon on a cancer-causing gene might have negative consequences for the most profitable media brand in human history, Nintendo threatened to sue. In response, the MSKCC renamed the gene “Zbtb7,” which sort of sounds like the onomatopoeia for blowing a raspberry at someone.
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