Human Practices Silver
For iGEM this year, we are working on our “Escape and Die” project, a lab safety measure for an accidental release of bacteria into the environment. In our research, we are specifically targeting E.coli K12, one of the most studied strains of E. coli. We selected E.coli K12 because it is less harmful to eukaryotic cells compared to some other strains of E.coli. However, it can also cause minor vomiting and abdominal pain through food contamination (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d.). In order to prevent E. coli from escaping the lab and transferring antibiotic resistance to more lethal bacteria, we are constructing a passive killswitch. Our killswitch will be the basis for other researchers who are looking to reduce the possibility of antibiotic resistant diseases and viruses.
In order to spread awareness about genetic engineering, we set up stands at our school’s back-to-school barbecue and at the Schiele Museum. At both the back-to-school barbecue and the Schiele Museum, we provided fun and informative activities for both children and adults in order to spread knowledge about bioengineering. These activities came from six individual hands-on activities donated by Building with Biology. This included “See DNA”, “Bio Bistro” and “Kit of Parts.” “See DNA,” our most popular activity, was created with wheat germ DNA. For the “See DNA” activity, we helped children fill up tubes with wheat germ liquid (this liquid was made of wheat germ, dishwasher detergent, meat tenderizer) and isopropyl alcohol. The children would then shake up the liquid and be able to see actual DNA. We later on cooperated with the Schiele Museum to hold a discussion based forum. In the forum, we explained the current situation of the continuous spreading of lethal diseases carried by mosquitoes among parts of the World. We discussed the ethics of genetically engineered mosquitoes to reduce the death rate caused by mosquito-borne diseases and releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes in both Kenya and our hometown. The goal of the event was for participants to leave with a greater understanding of synthetic biology and to interpret the ethical values behind bioengineering experiments and researches. We engaged with all audience by providing questions about the topics and leading them to further discussions. In our forum, we allowed the participants to think as researchers and place themselves in the context of people living in Kenya, Mombasa, where the death rate of mosquito-carried diseases is extremely high. By doing this, the audience appeared to have more empathy to genetic engineering policies.