Team:Lethbridge Canada/safety


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

The Lethbridge High School iGEM team works in a university laboratory with Containment Level 1. We work with non-pathogenic strains of E. coli, DH5α and BL21(DE3).

There are some hazardous chemicals with which we work in the lab, such as ethidium bromide. Team members always wear appropriate personal protective equipment – gloves, lab coats, protective glasses, pants and closed toed shoes. Our supervisors assist us when we work with organic substances and heavy metals (for example, formaldehyde and silver stain waste). We have a fire extinguisher, emergency shower, an eye-wash station and a first aid kit readily available. We also are always working with one of our University student advisors. All high school students received WHMIS and lab-specific safety training prior to starting our project.

We will be keeping our produced Oxytocin contained from public use. It would be available for research purposes only. Due to the fact that there is little known about the hormone, we want to make it available to researchers. An environmental risk is the possibility of the bacteria containing our parts escape the lab. There is the risk of horizontal gene transfer to other organisms, which may enable them to also produce Oxytocin. Oxytocin has been implicated in multiple cell-pathways so it is difficult to predict what effect it may have on the environment (1).

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

Our part containing the gene for Oxytocin-Neurophysin I does not raise any significant safety issues. If all bacteria, DNA, protein samples and chemicals are handled according to protocol, working with our part is quite safe.

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

The group at the University of Lethbridge responsible for biosafety is Risk and Safety Services. They are aware of the project and are very excited about the High School iGEM Program. We have complied with the Risk and Safety Services regulation by getting WHMIS and Lab-specific safety training, providing volunteer consent forms and permission forms when travelling for workshops and the Jamboree.

We follow the Laboratory Safety Guidelines outlined by Health Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada

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?

We think that there should be another means of observing the production and results of the findings produced within a specific iGEM lab from an outside source. An outside source that is very qualified regarding the field of synthetic biology, capable of examining the creation of new parts, the installment of assured safety measures and the handing out of results to the world. We would require the Risk and Safety Services of our institution to bring in this individual and have them work with the Risk and Safety Committee. By having and independent third party examine the work of an iGEM team; we can be certain that our parts are as safe as possible. Assured safety through the use of an outside source not directly relatable to the iGEM team, will assure troubleshooting to the possible problem of misguided information and action that could result in interference outside of the lab.

1. Strunecká et al

Lab Safety Lab Safety Lab Safety Lab Safety