Team:WashU StLouis/Safety



Radioactive signLarge signs around the lab help to  caution those that aren't familiar.

Mutated StrainsOver-grown mutated E. coli strains potentially develop harmful unknown genes
Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:

Researcher Safety?
The WashU team is working primarily with common, harmless chemicals. In addition, the researchers have been trained in proper handling of chemicals for hazardous chemicals such as Ethidium Bromide. For each such chemical, the team has read and followed appropriate safety protocols to ensure the continued health of the team. In all necessary instances, nitrile gloves, lab coats, and safety goggles are used as a further safety precaution. Additionally, all work with volatile chemicals is carried out in a fume hood. Overall, though, the chemicals that the team deals with on a daily basis are relatively harmless and can be handled by any researcher with ease.

Public Safety?
All researchers in the WashU team have been trained in applicable lab safety and sterile techniques to ensure that no one inadvertently releases bacteria into the environment. In any case, all bacteria are maintained in cell cultures. The products we extracted from the bacteria, safranal and crocin, are safe to work with. There is no danger to the public from the work that the team does in the lab.

Environmental Safety?
All harmful chemicals that we work with are disposed of in compliance with local and federal Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) standards. The EHS disposes of these harmful chemicals in a way that is least deleterious to the environment.

Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
None of our new BioBrick parts raise any significant safety issues given that they are genes found commonly in Crocus sativus and Arabidopsis thaliana. None of the new BioBrick parts should provide any advantages in transformed bacteria as compared with wild type bacteria. Therefore these parts should be very safe to use and manipulate.

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?
The local EHS division is active on the Washington University campus. The entire team completed an EHS training course to encourage lab safety. Our project was approved by the biology department which is held accountable directly to the EHS representative. In addition, we worked directly with the EHS in order to facilitate our YLC project. After extensive communication with our team, they gave us their approval for our project.

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?
Currently all team members are required to complete EHS training as part of the Washington University requirements to work in a lab. Every team in the iGEM competition should complete basic lab safety training as a part of the requirements to compete. This would encourage safer practices which will set good habits for the future of bioengineering. In order to make parts safer, better characterization upon submission should be stressed by iGEM. That way, future iGEM teams will know how to properly deal with submitted parts and prevent any potential risks that may be associated with a dearth of precautions taken while dealing with harmful parts.