Team:Missouri Miners/Safety


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

  • researcher safety,
  • public safety, or
  • environmental safety?

Our project does not introduce any new parts that could be considered hazardous. Any hazards in our project would be related to working with E. coli. We are constructing a hybridized scaffolding protein to allow cell-surface adherence of multiple enzymes. We do not foresee any potential detrimental effects of these engineered cells to researchers, the public, or the environment. In the future, teams and researchers who use this construct will have to be cautious about which enzymes they attach to this construct, as the selection of enzymes could affect safety concerns.

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?
  • how did you manage to handle the safety issue?
  • how could other teams learn from your experience?

Our project did not create any new parts that could be considered hazardous. We simply adapted the cellulosome from Clostridium thermocellum to attach to the cell surface of E. coli.

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?

Our institution, Missouri S&T, has an Institutional Biosafety Committee, on which our team's main advisor serves. The committee reviews projects and research regarding DNA synthesis and recombination. This committee is very supportive of our project and has not found any threat to the environment, public, or lab workers present in our research. They caution that researchers should be safety-conscious when using this system for different combinations of enzymes.

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?

Future iGEM teams could take many precautions to ensure biosafety is maintained. The easiest step for teams to make would be to use a non-virulent strain of bacteria as their chassis. The teams could take this one step further and mutate their chassis so it becomes auxotrophic for multiple nutrients and can only grow on the provided media. This would ensure that the bacteria will not survive in the environment. Other precautions that teams could take involve preventing unintentional activation of their DNA system. For example, students could engineer an inducible plasmid so their system only functions when in the presence of a specific drug. Another method to prevent unintentional activation could force the cell to undergo apoptosis and digestion of DNA except under desired conditions. If a cell were to escape into the environment, it would immediately be destroyed once it leaves the controlled laboratory conditions.