Most of the following information can also be found on our iGEM Safety Form
Before beginning work in the lab, we learnt basic lab safety. This included: •Knowledge of fire exits •Knowledge of first aid kit location/names of qualified first aiders in the building •Always wearing a lab coat inside the lab •Reading and signing the relevant COSHH forms •How to store flammable/toxic chemicals •How to dispose of hazardous, and potentially hazardous, waste materials. •Good microbiological practice, such as sterilisation techniques and correct disposal of biological materials.
Alongside the igem safety form, we were also required by the University to complete a GM risk assessment for our labwork.
The dry lab team also compiled a risk assessment for their experiments, as they involved electrical devices and liquids in close proximity. Risk assessments were also required for both Science Centre Events.
Genetically Modified Organism RA
The following are links to the relevant guidelines we had to adhere to:
The University of Glasgow
Main Health and Safety Page
Biological Safety Page
Heath and Safety Executive (UK):
Organism and Parts
Though the parts and organisms we were using are unlikely to pose a threat, it is good practice to document the origin and potential risks of each part.
Organism and Parts Safety Spreadsheet
Current Risks of Our Project
To the Health and Safety of Team Members and/or other Lab Workers
The risks are small to negligible – we are working with the K-12 strain on E.coil, which is genetically crippled to the extend that it cannot survive outside the lab environment (and has also lost its capacity to colonise the mammalian gut). The genes we are inserting into E.coli K12 do not increase its pathogenicity. Despite this, there is still a very small risk that the organism could revert back and/or regain it's ability to colonise. So, we still use rubber gloves and wash our hands when leaving the lab.
To the General Public
Even if any biological materials escaped the lab, the risks are very small. As mentioned previously, the E.coli strain is debilitated. We are not using any other whole organism. The plasmids we are using could get into other strains of bacteria by natural transformations. These strains of bacteria could potentially survive outside the lab. However, none of the genes we are using would make them more pathogenic, though they could make them resistant to some antibiotics.
To the Environment
The K-12 strain does not survive well outside a controlled environment, The plasmids we are are non-conjugative and non-mobilzable so that DNA cannot be easily transferred to other micro-organisms.
To security through malicious misuse
The organism and parts are non-pathogenic,, and so are unlikely to be used maliciously in this way.
What are we doing to negate/reduce these risks?
Use the E.coli strain K-12, which has a history of safe use in synthetic biology. The strain we used for many of our experiments is a derivative of AB1157 which is auxotrophic for 6 amino acids.
We also follow the safe lab practices outlined previously, and in our institution's guidelines. All waste is disposed of safely and/or autoclaved. Good microbiological practices are followed when handling organisms at all times. The lab is also equipped with magnetically sealed doors, which sound an alarm if left open too long.