Laboratories are equipped with many chemicals and electrical equipment that could be hazardous. Therefore, it is imperative students and professionals understand and detect safety hazards. iGEM has stressed the importance of lab safety right from the beginning of the competition. Our team strived to eliminate and raise awareness about safety hazards throughout our journey in this competition.
Safety Considerations of our Project Design
- We considered that there could be many hazards with genetically modifying a patient’s own cells
- We analysed the light activated ‘dead-switch’ device that chews up exogenous DNA from the cells. This device is activated after the cells create a self-sustaining tissue, to ensure the newly generated tissue does not lead to complications after transplantation
- Once we produce the 3D printed tissue, we need to make sure the genetically engineered cells are unresponsive to the specific light wavelengths we used to activate them (to prevent further spontaneous cell activation (e.g. by sunlight) )
- Bio-hazardous and risk of biocontamination
- Incorporating bacteria into architecture and public spaces could lead to health and safety issues. Therefore, we decided that in order to incorporate our technology in communities safely we would need to ensure our bacterial cells were dead once our structures were generated
- We considered the risks associated with our LIT bulb breaking, and releasing bacteria to the environment. Thoughts we evaluated included: how much bacteria could kill a person? Would people be willing to use potentially hazardous lightbulbs in their communities?
- We read about how we could tackle safety issues associated with our bacterial-powered lightbulb. We decided to engineer a bacterial strain that could only grow under highly defined environmental conditions (e.g. high Hydrogen Peroxide levels). Therefore, if our bacteria was ever released in the environment it would die before it could contaminate its surroundings
- We used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including lab coats, goggles and gloves, for all our experiments to prevent any physical contact or contamination with biological materials, including GMOs
- When carrying out chemical aggregation experiments, we used a fume hood cupboard to protect ourselves from volatile DMF fumes
- When performing the IrrE UV crosslinker test, as well as any UV gel visualisations, we used UV protection goggles and operated all equipment following the safety manuals