Our team has followed all safety rules set forth by Manhattan College and we practice ethical and responsible research in synthetic biology and biological engineering. We have adhered to the iGEM Lab Safety policies. We have designed a low risk project that works in Risk group 1 only.
We are working with low-risk organisms that pose little to no threat of infection. Our organism of interest in this project is the nonpathogenic strain of E. coli (K12). We have special receptacles for biological waste containment.
As outlined at the CDC "recognizing biosafety levels lesson"we are following each of the specific rules
More details on the guidelines for biosafety can be found at the CDC page.
We have received training on general and biological lab safety from Dr. Jonathan Patete who is the Compliance Officer and Chemistry Stockroom Manager. This training outlined the proper handling of chemical and hazardous wastes as well as biological waste. This training included chemical and biological safety procedures, and how to properly label and store such materials. We also were informed about fire safety and emergency policies.
Our project uses the Escherichia coli strains: DH5alpha and BL21(DE3), which are in risk group 1 [1,2]. They were purchased from Invitrogen.
Our iGEM teams goal is to enhance a bioanode through one of two biological means. First we express various glucose oxidase mutants derived from Aspergillus niger that are expected to increase enzyme stability and function in E. coli and then isolate these enzymes for activity at the anode. The genes of these enzymes are cloned into our expression vectors, expressed, isolated and then characterized by a colorimetric/kinetic assay. Second, we are attempting to express the Shewanella oneidensis MtrCAB operon, in conjunction with other cytochrome genes from S. oneidensis to create "electric" E. coli strain. This aim is also performed through cloning steps followed by expression in E. coli cells.
We do not see any ethical, hazardous, or other risks involved with this project and the generation of an efficient biofuel cell to generate power.
Laboratory Risk Factors and Mitigation
The biggest risk we work with is SYBR Stain, which is a mutagen and irritant, although we use it in small concentrations. Another risk is the antibiotic chloramphenicol, which is strongly anticipated to be a carcinogen by the National Toxicity Program . The E. coli that we use are derived from a K-12 strain and therefore are not particularly dangerous to humans. However, contact with bacteria could still lead to infection or illness, particularly if the bacteria are ingested. In our lab, we wear gloves, sterilize waste, and keep chemicals in cupboards.
This project is not using an infectious strain and the product of our enzyme reaction is not a hazardous material. We do not foresee any future risks from this project.