Safety: Overview

As one of the most rapidly developing field, synthetic biology has the potential to influence many other field of society. It becomes much easier for synthetic biologists modify changeable parts, assemble them into devices and systems, which do not exist in the nature. These artificial lives may contribute to the society while raising safety issues among the public, fearing that Resident Evil would happen in the real world.

Synthetic biologists have an obligation to make sure that their work does not result in these risks. As a team in the iGEM competition, we are paying special attention to experiment details to avoid biohazards.

Our project is unlikely to be harmful since none of the chassis organisms (DH10 beta, BL21 and JW1870) are pathogenic. They are the most widely used strains of E.coli in synthetic biology labs. In addition, the bacterial ghosts formed by these two species stop growing and cannot be harmful when being used.

In this safety part, we mainly focused on 2 parts to solve the following existing problems in our project:

  • How to prevent engineered bacteria overgrowth?
  • How to prevent engineered plasmids penetrating innocent cells?

We insert a suicide system (holin-antiholin system) and concentration controlling system (ccdB circuit) into the atrazine killer. We also encapsulate the atrazine killer with a calcium phosphate and carbonate shell to slow down its growth and set them apart from the environment. Thus in general our project is unable to produce a severe biosafety issue.