Team:Heidelberg LSL/Notebook safety
In synthetic biology you work with bacteria, which resembles a form of life. So you have to take some precautions of what you are doing, since it is important to contemplate what is ethically correct when you work with living organisms. In one worst-case scenario one could build dangerous biomachines with synthetically engineered constructs.
You also have to take safety precautions when you work in a laboratory. PD Dr. Rüdiger Arnold, a scientific coordinator and head of the Life-Science Laboratory, explained us how to work carefully and according to the biosafety level S1 requirements. In a safety introduction course he told us the most important precaution measures:
- You have to wear laboratory gloves, lab coats and sometimes protective goggles!
- You have to carefully wash your hands after working in a laboratory!
- Contaminated areas have to be cleaned with 80% ethanol!
- Do not eat or drink in a laboratory!
- Autoclave contaminated materials before disposal!
- Be sure to work according to the protocol!
- Safety first - the highest priority is to save and protect the health and life of an individual working in a lab!
All constructed parts we sent to the parts registry fulfill the biosafety level S1 requirements and are therefore non-hazardous and non-infectious for humans and harmless for the environment. We worked with well-characterized and endogenous promoters from the E.coli safety strain K12 in which we finally tested our parts. The recA promoter (BBa_J22106) has often been tested and has a registry star. We combined our promoters with well-described reporters. The beta-galactosidase protein generator (BBa_K173004) is well tested, too. Furthermore, we want to emphasize, that our project was set up in a charitable and non-profit way and users of our parts should share our intention, which is the open-license intention of iGEM, the parts registry and the synthetic biology community.
Security considerations concerning our application of genetically modified bacteria in jewelry
Having genetically modified bacteria outside a laboratory is problematic. Some of the bacterial suspension could drop out of the small tube of the jewelry and get onto the skin or into the environment. Even though our bacterial strains are not able to survive outside their artificial environment in the laboratory in particular outside the optimal medium, they can become dangerous for biological- and ecosystems. Because of mutations particularly induced through UV-radiation there is some genetic diversity which could enable bacteria to survive, to spread in our environment or to even cause diseases. Also, the disposal of used tubes could be problematic but there could be found ways to be sure that no bacterium survived after the use of the tube. Although we cannot estimate the exact risk level emerging from our jewelry products right now we are convinced that this will change in the future. The development of safer bacteria-containers and protection devices would mean a break through on the market of synthetic bio-jewelry.