Team:Lethbridge HS/HP/Silver

Lethbridge HS iGEM 2016


Best Blood Practices

Governing Guidelines

We looked into the guidelines reported in the Public Health Agency of Canada when looking at working with blood. Per the Canadian Biosafety Standards, there are no issues working with animal blood in a control level I lab since the blood is not being introduced to any human pathogens or any specimen that is at a higher risk level. Any work done in the lab should still be treated with good microbiological lab practices (Canada & Agency, 2016). The Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not have any stipulations about working with animal blood use in a lab or transportation within Canada (Branch, 2015). Guidelines may be different depending on the country you live in and should be looked into before working with blood in your lab.

Safety Considerations

When working with pigs blood and/or cells in the lab, we practiced extreme caution in order to ensure the safety of our fellow team members and advisors. The safety precautions that we followed included, wearing all the proper personal protection equipment (lab coats, gloves, and safety glasses). We also ensured the proper disposal and cleaning of lab equipment that came in contact with the pigs blood: petri dishes, pipette tips, volumetric pipette tips, paper towels and glass containment vessels used to transport the blood, using biohazard bags as a primary means of storage until loaded into an autoclave. After using mechanical equipment and lab space, we take time to make sure the equipment and lab bench is properly cleaned and sterilized with a 12.5% bleach solution followed afterwards by a 70% Ethanol solution rinse of the surrounding area. Upon reception of the blood in the sealed glass vessel the containers were surrounded by plastic bags and then placed into either a styrofoam transport container or a cardboard container. Once in the lab the glass container was removed inside a fume hood along with pouring of the initial blood solution in the fume hood.

Blood Experiment Considerations

Aside from safety considerations, there are also other aspects to look at when working with blood. For example, we had to add the anticoagulant heparin to the blood we obtained from a local butcher shop, The Mad Butcher. This was done in order to prevent the natural coagulation process from occurring as much as possible before we could work with the blood in the lab. This is another factor to consider when looking at the results from our experiments. Depending on when we could get the blood or if there was any issues in transporting it, there may have already been a substantial amount of natural clotting that had taken place. Another factor to consider when working with blood is what source you are getting the blood from. It is important to ask if the supplier puts anything into the blood before you receive it. We were ensured by our suppliers that there were no additives that we were not aware of.


Branch, L. S. (2015, July 1). Health of animals regulations. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from,_c._296/index.html

Canada, G. of, & Agency, C. F. I. (2016, August 15). Canadian Biosafety handbook, Second edition - Canadian Biosafety standards and guidelines. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from


1. Sepsis and the ethics behind this as this potentially could relate directly to the consequences of using our product on a human: (Acacia) There are already some possible ethical concerns around the use of snake venom as a clotting agent. Though the topical application of venom has benefits, there is a chance for sepsis to occur, especially if it’s being applied to an open wound. We know the consequences of snake venom being injected directly into the bloodstream. These would be the same consequences if sepsis through a wound were to occur. The idea around this project is fascinating, but in this aspect, it would be negligent and unethical not to recognize the possible dangers that accompany the chances of natural occurrences such as sepsis. The specifics of intended procedures will have to be further elaborated beyond the intent that is listed above.

2. The ethics behind bacteria entering a wound site. (Talia) Ethically speaking this project could provide many questions which the team would need to answer. These questions are centered primarily around implementation. However, two main questions developed on the basis of this project description are: Clotting: As the Lethbridge team has chosen to use snake blood for their construct, the possibility that clotting could occur elsewhere in the body other than at the wound site is relatively high. Ethically speaking this problem could be evaluated many ways. If one is a follower of Kant's belief of dialogical ethics for example, they would be bound by their moral imperative to act rather than the rightness or wrongness of any consequences. Meaning that one could justify the potential use of snakes venom even if their was a high possibility of life threatening clotting as the means are good. They focus on the potential that we could save a life. So based off that, the use of snake venom could be an ethical approach while keeping in mind that the Lethbridge team also intends on investigating the rightness or wrongness of their procedures before any possible application to humans. Bacteria: The second ethical dilemma is surrounding the direct contact of bacteria and a vulnerable wound site. Currently this project uses the chassis e coli. This presents a problem as the directly contact of the e coli could lead to infection or septic shock. Most laboratory strains such as k-12 have very rarely if ever been directed implicated in disease. (1) This means that the likelihood of someone getting sick from contact with the construct is very unlikely. However, one could be concerned about the patient going into septic shock. Also known as sepsis can take place as a result of an infection and cause very drastic changes in the body. Often times the inflammation caused as a result of sepsis can lead to tiny blood clots. This can block oxygen and nutrients from reaching vital organs. (2) This in combination with the potential clotting of blood due to snake venom could have drastic, and life threatening effects on the patient. The ethical approach of Plato which focuses on Eudaimonia or well being could justify this action, as it is intended to create a well being.

3. The Doctrine of Double Effect (Acacia) The Doctrine of Double Effect is mostly used in the medical community, it essentially says that anything done for a positive end result, but which may cause serious harm, is ethical(1). Though this is in direct conflict with the oath to “Do No Harm” it is an accepted practice in the medical community. There are misinterpretations though, I believe that this situation can be a misinterpretation of that practice. The Doctrine of Double Effect stands in cases such as: a military sniper killing a terror bomber or a catholic doctor performing an abortion in a case where pregnancy would kill the mother. What these have in common is that they are last ditch efforts to save lives. The purpose of this project is for the topical application not to be a last ditch effort, but for it to be a go-to in the case of an emergency. In this case, because the possible chance of harm may outweigh the possible good, it may not be considered ethical. Development of procedures to minimize risk will be essential to make the solution ethical in this sense.

4. "First do no Harm" as it relates to a potentially harmful biological product (Talia) The saying “first do no harm” is one which is heavily related to bioethics and medicine. It refers to the way that both in the medical and scientific community we are meant to make choices. This was developed as a basic way to evaluate all choices as sometimes they can be fairly tricky and need to be made quickly. The basis of this viewpoint is to do what you think is right first in high stress situations, but also to maintain respect. This means that though you know your treatment or project could be helpful if the people most directly affected does not agree with what you are doing you are not free to do so, and to do so would be wrong. (1) The do no harm viewpoint also emphasizes that one should not place people in a historical order meaning that when considering the effects of one's project you should not place on viewpoint or person in preference but rather all as equal. (2)This applies to the project because when considering the effects of the project one must consider the true effects it could have on those directly affected or the patient's. First of all let's look at application. With the current implementation method there is still a possibility, though limited that a patient could experience sepsis or another effect from the biological system or that the snake venom could cause the blood in the patient to clot somewhere other than the womb sight. Applying the first do no harm principle in a high stress situation if this could save the patient's life then they should do so. However if the patient is able to consent they must provide this consent. The second issue is surrounding that of the use of a GMO on a person. Many people are against GMOs or have religious perspectives stating that they should not use GMOs. The same as above applies when applying the first do no harm principle. If in a high stress situation it is up to the doctor to do what they think is best for their patient. But if the patient is conscious they must understand that it is a GMO and consent. The third consideration factors into the very basic ethical approval of the project. If a number of professionals both within the medical practical field and synthetic biology field feel as though this project or any other part of its testing, construction etc have negatives which outweigh the positives it is not ethical or in accordance with the ‘do no harm' perspective and so the project or that part of the project must be abandoned by the team.

Catholic Ethics

From the Catholic perception man is created in the image and likeness of God, and with this must include a profound amount of respect for creation and its miracle. Synthetic biology can be a valuable resource to human progress, when used properly. Catholicism has established that within the church our central moral and unethical complication is the manipulation of life. (2) As a result, science and technology should never alone be the meaning of existence and human progress; we still must find a balance of what ‘manipulation of life’ really is. (1) Gene manipulation is a growing domain within biology which has drawn vital questions and concerns. The current rapid development within synthetic biology ensures we must be quick to follow and respect the standards within the field.

Before deciding the ethical accountability of a project you must first develop a perspective on what is and what is not the manipulation of life. There are many views and opinions describing the sinfulness of tinkering with human life, such as stem cell and embryo alterations which has been clearly outlined as unethical by the catechism. (2) The Vatican says that “applied biology and medicine work together for the integral good of human life when they come to the aid of a person stricken by illness and infirmity and when they respect his or her dignity as a creature of God.” (1) There are many views and opinions describing the sinfulness of tinkering with human life, such as stem cell and embryo alterations which has been clearly outlined as unethical by the catechism. (2) Alternatively, is putting a plasmid into a bacterium the same concept, or is it separate in classification? To answer this, we must look at the fact that bacteria rarely complete the duty we are attempting to task them and secondly are we making any changes to life at all or for pointless reasons. Whether or not changes are made is an important factor because we are not adjusting the organism’s genome but instead simply placing a plasmid inside, much like an organ transplant which has no criticism within the church. We asked Father Wilbert, the Canmore parish priest, what he thought about our area of work and his main concern was the involvement of human life and how critical the idea of working to better society is.

A person’s contribution to the evolvement of mankind is important when participating in work that is not always deemed right. A historic philosopher named Kant theorized that right or wrong is based off of one’s actions to fulfil a duty, and that good will is the ultimate virtue because it cannot be turned to selfish reasoning. (3) The Catholic belief coincides with Kant’s ideas on good will. This also includes the importance of bettering mankind when participating in synthetic biology, rather than using it to accomplish immoral ends. A similar topic related to ethics is a person’s conscience for the vatican says that “science without conscience can only lead to a mans ruin” (1) We must be aware of the complications that can arise and know personally what is right from wrong. “That everyone might see clearly that the Church and her Pastors are not opposed to true and solid science, whether human or divine, but embrace it, encourage it, and promote it with the fullest possible devotion” Pope Leo XIII. Understanding that the Catholic Church completely supports scientific advancements for the improvement of our race is important, but to do it properly and ethically is vital.

The line between religion and science is not black and white, allowing room for varying perspectives. Therefore, outlining the rights and wrongs within a project is difficult to do without including bias. The position of this and any other project on the spectrum of right and wrong should rely on the well considered and fully informed decisions of many diverse perspectives if any conscientious progress is to be made.

Thank you to the OLS Canmore team for giving us their ethical review of our project