Working in a laboratory can have its hazards. As a result, we ensured that we took steps to keep ourselves safe and out of harm's way by taking the following steps:
Safe Project Design
In order to reduce the risks that our team members were exposed to while working on the project, certain decisions about the project design were made.
- Choice of Chassis: The chassis organisms we worked with are all BSL-1 organisms and fall within Risk Group 1 by NIH guidelines. The specific chassis used are: Escherichia coli MegaX, Nissle, and K12 and Lactobacillus reuteri and casei . As such, team members were not exposed to potentially harmful bacteria.
- Choice of Parts: The genetic parts we were working with were are, by the nature of our project, safe for humans. The signal peptides we are working with can be found naturally in E. coli and Lactobacillus and are not shown to impact human health and the gut peptides GLP-1, PYY, and Ghrelin are already naturally found in humans. In addition, the lysis mechanism involves the use of holins and endolysins that are not harmful to humans.
- "Kill Switch" Device: In addition to the secretion of gut peptides, the design of our device includes a "kill switch" device that will cause cells to undergo a delayed cell-death after the secretion of gut peptides. This system is regulated by AHL-based quorum sensing. For more information, please visit our project design page.
Safe Lab Work
In order to ensure the safety of all of our team members, proper training had to be provided and safe lab procedures to be carried out on a daily basis. The following are steps taken to meet this goal:
- Safety Training : All team members completed the training and received certificates for "Lab Safety, Chemical Hygiene, and Waste Management", "Recombinant DNA Training", and "Biological/Bloodborne Pathogen Training" that is given by Columbia University. As such, team members are trained to work in a laboratory setting and handle potential emergencies before starting experiments.
- Proper Lab Attire (PPE): In order to decrease potential exposures to biological materials and chemical reagents, team members are required to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and gloves while at the bench. In addition, goggles were used when necessary (i.e during exposures to higher frequency light).
- Using Safe Substitutes: To further decrease the number of potential risks in the laboratory, we used lab procedures that had the least inherent risks. Most notably, this involved the use of SYBR Gold E-Gel over agarose gels that need to be stained by the carcinogenic ethidium bromide.