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Braunschweig Labbook

View our safety form here. Safety forms were approved on September 29, 2013 by the iGEM Safety Committee.

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Project Safety Concerns

While designing our project biosafety was a very important issue for the team. The two main devices constructed contain an additional antibiotic resistance. This ampicillin resistance is under the control of an inducible promoter. Thus, the resistance can only be expressed if a synthetic inducer is added or a complementing strain that produces the corresponding inducer is present in the culture broth. Since only standard biobricks from the registry that have already been evaluated for biosafety were use an additional kill switch was not necessary. We chose ampicillin as antibiotic because it is a standard antibiotic which has been extensively used in laboratory work. However, a regulation based on auxotrophic chassis is planned. This way the use of antibiotics can be completely avoided.

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Laboratory safety concerns

Guiding principle: Avoid hazardous chemicals, biological material and situations if possible!

Used organisms
The iGEM Team Braunschweig 2013 worked exclusively with non-pathogenic strains of E. coli, which means working with the lowest possible risk level.
Strain Risk group Risk to humans
E. coli XL1 Blue MRF' 1 No human pathogen, but may cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract and may affect kidneys.
E. coli Top10F' 1 No human pathogen, but may cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract and may affect kidneys.
E. coli JM109 1 No human pathogen, but may cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract and may affect kidneys.

Safety equipment
To create a safe working environment, the provided lab space was equipped with safety showers, eye shower, fire-extinguishers and a fire blanket. Furthermore lab coats, gloves and safety goggles for all team members were available at any time. For protection against carcinogenic substances like ethidium bromide a special labeled area in the lab was used.
Equipment which was in contact with biological material and could not be reused was disposed in biohazard waste and autoclaved.

Personal safety
The iGEM Team Braunschweig 2013 focussed a lot on personal safety. Every team member had to be given an instruction of occupational health and safety before starting any wet lab work. All team members got a tour and additional supervision in the lab and were only working in groups of at least two. Furthermore the lab work was coordinated by two team members who supervised the others when using new equipment or technique. During lab work the team members avoided hazardous chemicals whenever possible. In case hazardous chemicals could not be avoided appropriate safety measurements were taken.

Main risks at the laboratory
To enable sterile work some ethanol was used to clean working space, with the advice that ethanol is easily flammable and should just be used for small areas.
For our cultivations we had to add antibiotics to our media, which were handled with care because large amounts of them can cause harmful effects to health and could possibly lead to undesirable resistances in bacteria.
The major hazard during our lab work was the regular use of UV light and ethidium bromide, which is a DNA intercalating agent and can therefore cause cancer. Both had to be used for the visualization of gel electrophoresis.

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In the project different bacterial strains of E. coli K12 were used. Since bacterial cultivations have been extensively exploited in laboratory and are generally accepted in public’s opinion it is believed that the project does not raise any bioethical questions.
If our approach is applied to existing biotechnological processes it might be seen as a benefit for society. As a bacterial consortium has the ability to perform more complex tasks - from wastewater treatment to the synthesis of complex biological compounds from renewable resources - it contributes to more sustainable processes.

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Environmental impact

The constructs were designed for laboratory cultivations only. If accidently exposed to the environment the impact has to be considered low to negligible since only E. coli K12 safety strains were used. However, if the constructs will be used with species of higher risk levels the environmental impact has to be reconsidered. This projects aims to help to create an environmentally friendly way to cope with industrialization and bulk production. Hence, future perspectives offer more sustainability for the world.

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