Team:Paris Bettencourt/Safety


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iGEM Paris Bettencourt 2012


1- Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of :

a- Researcher safety

We only use the Bacteria Escherichia coli DH5a NEB Turbo and K12 which are common laboratory strains [1], also considered as Level 1 Biosafety Containment agent.

Also, there are a number of standard lab reagents that we require the use of in our project, that are harmful on contact. These include:

  • Ethidium Bromide :

Acute: Hazardous when ingested or inhaled, and is an irritant of the skin and eye. Chronic: In the long term exposure can have carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects, and can cause developmental toxicity.

b- Public safety

None of our designs have potential to harm the public if released by design or accident and even less since our lab is especially equipped for microbial manipulation and everything is done to avoid risk of release. However, we are conscious that as any bacterium it can be hazardous. For instance, all traumatic wounds, infected burns and any serious lesions can potentially be a terrain for strains but it is very rare. Treatment: Escherichia coli can be treated with regular antibiotics, which does not pose any problem to a doctor.

c- Environmental safety

Since the purpose of our project is to protect environment from synthetic devices, we assume the fact that in case of accidental release of any biohazard, it would raise safety issue because we don't know the long term effect. However, it is known that E. coli will be out-compete outside a lab. Beyond that consideration, the environment is protected from contamination by waste products because any dangerous material is disposed in the correct container (e.g. biohazard containers for biological waste such as E. coli colonies), autoclaved and disposed of responsibly by the university. Team members will also be taught proper molecular biology skills and aseptic techniques. Public safety is ensured as no member of the public is permitted access within the labs unless approved by the university. Team members will follow proper procedures like washing their hands with disinfectant before leaving the laboratory to avoid transmitting potentially harmful material to the public/environment.

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

did you document these issues in the Registry?

Yes, we did, as mention before, biosafety is the essence of our project, and we're preoccupied by the risk of dissemination of antibiotic resistance gene as well as any bioactive compounds or antitoxin. We addressed this issue in the characterization of our system.

how did you manage to handle the safety issue?

Several mechanisms were proposed beyond the classical laboratory safety measures :

  • Semantic containment that avoid the expression of synthetic gene outside the GMOs.
  • Meganuclease restriction sites that permit the degradation of the antitoxin.
  • DNases that degrade GMOs genome.

How could other teams learn from your experience?

We suggest that other teams should keep in mind that not only the bacteria is potentially dangerous, but also the DNA, and one could make everything possible to add a serious safety part, mainly when iGEM project aims at releasing bacteria in Nature.

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

The work has been carried out in the laboratory of Evolutionary Systems Biology at the Molecular, Evolutive and Medical Genetics Unit (U1001, also know as TaMaRa's lab) of the French National Institute of Medical Research ([INSERM]) within the Paris Descartes University's Medical faculty. More importantly, the Biosafety officer of our unit followed our work. Both institutions have their ethical committees though no specific issue concerning our project needed to be raised.

If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?

We met the chair of the ethic committee of Paris Descartes, and they advice us to keep thinking of the human practice part, while providing us some interesting thoughts.

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?

Our idea is to create a safety page on the part registry that would list all the safety mechanism and systems available on the part registry, with the links to their description and experimental characterization. We would like to suggest next generations of iGEM teams to consult this page, to find a system that would be useful to increase the safety of their project. We also collaborate with the iGEM Grenoble team, who proposed an additional section to the description of Biobricks™ which would explain their potential danger, and the ways to assess the risk.

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