SYSU-MEDICINE is trying to reinforce the homing ability of MSCs toward the inflamed tissue by constructing the plasmids with the chemokine receptors and locate them with fluorescence. In addition, we designed a switch to kill themselves when they differentiate into cells of other types. We spared no effort to achieve the safety control.

Safety Project Design

Parts Selection

Harmful parts are not allowed in our project. The most commonly used parts are chemokine receptors and the fluorescent proteins. Chemokine receptors can be mainly found in lymphocytes’surface, such as CXCR1, CXCR4, CXCR5, CCR2, CCR5, CCR7 and so on. It is known that with chemokine receptors, lymphocytes can be guided toward the specific area, especially the inflammatory site in the body. Consequently, chemokine receptors do not cause damage to humans or animals. As for fluorescent proteins, such as the luciferase, dTomato, eGFP, hFTH, are most commonly used for cells tracking in iGEM projects. They will not produce any toxic substances that harm humans or animals.

MSCs Selection

Selecting mesenchymal stem cells that will not damage the hosts. We have experiments on mesenchymal stem cells from Homo sapiens. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have great competence in proliferation without tumorigenicity. In suitable conditions, MSCs can differentiate into adipocytes, chondroblasts osteoblasts, and so on. In addition, MSCs carry out immunomodulatory capability by secreting the cytokines and cell-cell interaction to inhibit the proliferation and function of the T cells. The immunological rejection in mesenchymal stem cells is limited so that it can be used to heterograft. With these advantages, so safe are MSCs that they have been applied in the laboratory research and clinical trials.

Release Issue

Our project will not release any genetically modified organisms, or the products during the iGEM competition. To demonstrate the ability of our engineered MSCs in vivo, our project is used in mice only during iGEM competition. We will not release or deploy any genetically modified organisms, or the products of genetically modified organisms, outside the lab.

Safety Lab Work

In order to reach the requirement of the iGEM regulations and safety policies in Sun Yat-sen University, any dangerous experiments are forbidden in our daily lab work. Although mesenchymal stem cells from Homo sapiens are relatively safe, we treat them scrupulously to avoid any damage to humans or the environment.

The main safety aspects of our daily work in the lab include 3 parts

Before Lab

Since not all team members had experience in lab before, the new members must understand the project completely and be guided by at least one of the senior members and our instructor. They also received mandatory training on how to work safely in the laboratory, including personal protective skills, how to deal with different chemicals and their dispose, most common lab accidents and how to avoid them.

During the Lab

All the members in the lab must wear gloves, safety glasses, closed leather shoes and lab coats. Necessary steps should be performed in biosafety cabinet. Fire, electric heaters, microwave oven should not be left while working. Drinking or eating is forbidden in the lab.

After Lab

All liquid waste and solid waste with living organisms must be sterilized before leaving the lab. In order to minimize the release of the developing bacteria to the environment, we are cautious with the disposal of biological material at the laboratory. All liquid cell cultures were autoclaved and, after reaching room temperature, disposed on the sink. Used agar plates were autoclaved inside a bag and disposed on common waste. Pipette tips were incinerated before being disposed. After that, the materials were discarded on common waste. UV-light is used to sterilize the lab every two week. The last person to leave the lab should make sure that water, electricity, gas, and air conditioner has been closed, and doors and windows has been locked before leaving.

Safe submission

The safety in sending parts to registry is of great importance in iGEM project. As the requirement of the part registry, only frozen dried material can be delivered. We have sealed 96-well plates with enough package to avoid the parts escaping. Sometimes the DNA deliveried will be checked by customs and certain safety certification may be required to make sure the containing material is not harmful to destination. We follow these rules and prepare materials, such as safety certification, and package according to courier’s requirement. In most delivery, it takes several days for the customs to discharge after checking. As a result, we will send out the parts a few days ahead of the deadline to make sure the arrival on time.

Finally, we design a safety questionnaire on our project and laboratory.