While working in the lab, safety was always our top concern.
Lab safety includes everything from instructions regarding equipment, through proper protective gear, such as gloves, glasses, lab coats etc., to adequate preparations and proper disposal of chemicals and organisms.
Aside from personal lab safety, we gave considerable thought to the subject of product safety as we were designing a hardware product meant for use outside of the lab.
Working at the iGEM Technion lab:
All members of the team have completed safety training,
provided by our instructors. It included detailed explanations
regarding the hazards and risks, which can be found in the
laboratory environment, with emphasis on different chemical
and biological issues.
In addition, we received information about the location of fire alarms, safety showers, extinguishers and fume hoods.
During the project, we worked with the following strains of
E. coli: UU1250, Top10, B275∆ ZRAS ,B275∆ FILM and MG1655.
These strains do not exhibit any toxicity and belong to
Biosafety level 1, which is the lowest risk level.
In addition, we obeyed the Technion's official regulations
regarding biosafety in the lab.
To minimize risks and conduct safe research, certain rules were adapted in the lab:
- Use of personal protection equipment, such as lab coats, safety goggles and rubber gloves if necessary.
- Consumption of food or drinks in the lab area is prohibited.
- Smoking in the lab area is prohibited.
- Mandatory autoclaving of all waste that came into contact with biological materials.
- Ethydium bromide - A known carcinogen, used in agarose gel. Therefore gel preparation was done in designated marked areas and with designated equipment. Addition of EtBr to the mix was done in a hood, and special emphasis was placed on wearing gloves and lab coats when handling gel.
- Liquid nitrogen - Can cause frostbites or cryogenic burns if not handled properly. Therefore, we always worked with liquid nitrogen, while wearing protective clothing, including safety goggles, cryogenic gloves and tongs.
FlashLab - the product which we designed, is a fluidic chip at its core. The channel inside the chip is not sealed, to allow the passage of oxygen through the chip. Due to this limitation, the genetically engineered bacteria can be spilt from the chip if the user does not handle it properly. That kind of spill can cause environmental problems. We looked into several ways to solve this problem:
1) Design approach: produce the chip as a complete standalone sealed kit, meaning that in the final product, the bacteria will be placed in a vial connected to the chip. The user will then have to simply break a seal connecting the two (same principle as a glow stick), to release them into the channel before adding the sample. This approach is not ideal, since the bacteria will still be in the chip after usage, meaning the risk of accidental release is not diminished. To increase product safety even further we looked into a second solution.
2) Biological approach: Using a kill switch system to prevent environmental risks, in case of release. For this purpose, we aim to utilize the kill switch designed by Berkeley 2008 iGEM Team (BbaK112808). This kill switch depends on the concentration of IPTG in the environment. When the IPTG concentration in the medium is low, the kill switch will be activated. For this purpose, we would add IPTG, a substance not consumed by bacteria, into the medium. Upon release of the bacteria into the environment, the IPTG concentration that the bacteria sense will drop rapidly, leading to an increase in death rate.
1. Technion Safety and Health Unit