Team:Tec-Monterrey EKAM/Safety


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Home Team Profile Project Parts Modeling Notebook Safety Attributions

  • Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?

The project is centered around P. pastoris as an expression system. This species of yeast is regarded as non-pathogenic, ranked in biosafety level 1. The E. coli strains utilized in various laboratory protocols are also ranked as such, and thus the organisms being handled do not represent a direct hazard against researchers or the environment. Even so, the proper precautions are implemented, using standard aseptic practices in the laboratory and specific waste containers for disposed materials. Those organisms conferred with antibiotic resistance for selection of transformants are also stored separately and properly decontaminated by autoclaving. Researchers’ physical integrity is looked after by following standard protective guidelines in the laboratory, including the availability of proper equipment placement to avoid accidents and wearing protective gear at all times. All biological products and processes utilized in the project shouldn’t raise any biosafety concerns.

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

The parts to be entered this year in the registry by our team pose no safety issues regarding their target gene products. Because of the antibiotic resistance used as a selection marker, proper precautions were implemented. The pUC57 and pPink-HC vectors used in E. coli include the ampicillin resistance gene, which is of standard use in molecular cloning methodologies. The pPICZ A used in E. coli and P. pastoris includes the Zeocin resistance gene, an antibiotic developed for its use in research.

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

There is no local review board in Monterrey specifically devoted to ensuring a correct application of proper biosafety guidelines in laboratories. As a general consideration, the Regulation of the General Health Law on the Provision of Medical Investigation (Reglamento de la Ley General de Salud en Materia de Investigación para la Salud) includes precise technical criteria related to the application of standard procedures, as well as recommendations on ethical principles and safety norms for the handling of substances potentially harmful to humans. This set of norms also establishes certain principles for the regulation of genetically modified organisms, more specifically to those carried out in laboratory spaces.

  • 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?

As useful a tool as synthetic biology is proving to be, it undeniably raises certain concerns for the possible hazards it could bring about in biological systems. Even with the proper biosafety guidelines implemented adequately in research laboratories, the break out of a rogue microorganism is a clear and present threat, especially if pathogenic strains’ potential for bioterrorism is considered. Countries should have the ability to respond quickly and solidly to any microbial outbreak that might occur in the future. An international organization with first-rate specialists dedicated to preserving humanity’s general immunologic welfare should be able to accurately respond to an epidemic by creating effective recombinant vaccines with a minimal response time through biotechnological methods, such as the one used by Dr. José Manuel Aguilar Yáñez for the influenza AH1N1 virus in response to the 2009 outbreak.

As for iGEM (which is the actual question), de-activation switches could be developed to be attached to potentially dangerous parts so that they are destroyed or rendered inactive if they are placed outside the laboratory environment. For example, light degradation or perhaps auxotrophy represent potential tools that could be used to keep synthetic biological activity in tight control.