Team:Austin Texas/Safety


Safety Procedures for Team UT Austin

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

a. researcher safety,

Our host organism, E. coli B, is non-pathogenic. Our project does make use of N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-Homoserine lactone to induce the production of our recombinase. Exposure of this auto-inducer through skin or eyes or inhalation or ingestion can result in dizziness, drowsiness, headache nausea and vomiting. Our project also involves the degradation of caffeine to xanthine through a pathway that includes various methylxanthines, including theobromine and theophylline. All of these substances are low risk for humans.

b. public safety, or

In our model, N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-Homoserine lactone works with LasR to induce CRE recombinase. The pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses a similar pathway, in which the autoinducer binds to LasR, promoting the expression of various virulence factors tied to infection. Since P. aeruginosa uses this autoinducer to gauge its communal strength in preparation for virulence, presence of external autoinducer could lead to premature virulence at insufficient concentrations. Excepting the immuno-compromised, hosts should be able to deal with such low levels of virulence.

c. environmental safety?

While caffeine and its de-methylated products pose little threat to human health, many domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and birds, are quite susceptible to theobromine poisoning. The popular conception that chocolate is poisonous to dogs is based on theobromine poisoning. However, our experiments do not involve enough theobromine to constitute a lethal dosage to an average dog or cat.

2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
None of our parts raise significant concerns to researcher or public health. Using basic safety protocols, we were able to safely use and document all of our parts.

a. If yes, did you document these issues in the Registry?

Not applicable.

b. If yes, how did you manage to handle the safety issue?

Not applicable.

c. If yes, how could other teams learn from your experience?

Not applicable.

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

Yes, UT's Institutional Biosafety Committee reviews research involving potentially dangerous biological agents and substances.
a. If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?

Our laboratory has approval from the Institutional Biosafety Committee to conduct our research as long as all members are properly trained and the proper safety protocols are followed.

b. If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?

4. 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?