Team: iGEM Frankfurt -


Safety Questions

Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues?

During our work at the laboratory in the rooms of the microbial practices we work with these two organisms: Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker Yeast), stem: CEN.PK2 and Escherichia coli, stem DH5 alpha. Both stems are common safety stems for laboratory work. Nevertheless all living material and material derived from living organism is treated as potentially infectious material. No cell containing material is released into the environment without sterilisation in the autoclave. Before leaving the laboratory, hands and eventually contaminated parts of the body are washed carefully and are disinfected with sterilium.

We work with two hazardous chemicals. One is ethidiumbromide, the other one is ergosterol. We use ethidiumbromide as a depleted solution for staining gels. The manufacturing and disposition of the ethidiumbromide solution is only done by experienced university staff members. When working with the ethidiumbromide bath, gloves (nitrile) have to be used. Such work is only done in special areas which are marked as contaminated. Ergosterol is only treated with gloves below the extractor hood.

Work in the lab is only permitted for students wearing a lab coat, long trousers and closed shoes. For certain kinds of work with increased safety, danger safety glasses and appropriate protection gloves have to be used. Of course eating and drinking is strictly forbidden.

All of the biobricks we are going to produce are non hazardous as non of them produces toxic gene products. The parts are either promoter or terminator sequences native to the baker yeast organism, native genes occurring in yeast and one gene from the archaea Sulfolobus acileratius, which produces a gene product already present in yeast. The biobricks belonging to the steviolglycoside pathway only produce substances which naturally occur in Stevia, which is an edible plant.

The risk to the public and to the environment is also low. The access to biological and chemical material is restricted to a known group of people. The used organisms as well as the modified ones are not expected to propagate outside of laboratory conditions.

Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise safety issues?

As already stated all of the genetic material is known from edible organisms or only possesses gene products known from edible organisms. There is no expectable safety problem with these gene materials.

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?

The project was presented to the safety instructors of the laboratory we work with. Entering the lab is only allowed for students who were instructed by a qualified S1 safety instructor within a year. Methods and equipment which contain extraordinary risks are not used.

Do you have any other ideas how to deal with safety issues that could be useful for future iGEM competitions? How could parts, devices and systems be made even safer through biosafety engineering?

For participations in future competitions we are planning to do "Lab dry-runs" where on the one hand the usage of technical equipment can be practised, on the other hand particular danger factors and common mistakes of important instruments and methods can be discussed. We especially intent to reduce the maloperation of instruments and methods for both, reduction of material damage and dangerous situations for the students.

During this sommer (2012) we already dealed with ethical implications of synthetic biology in specific meetings or online meetings. We will present the results of this disscussions in this wiki.