Our pre-experiment training lasted for two days, and we went into the lab to do our own molecular cloning and editing engineering bacteria, which is a pleasant process basically but seemed to be a departure from what we were supposed to be doing. Rigorous experimental procedures and rigorous laboratory entry requirements do not exist in the way as expected. There is not systematic training on the use of experimental equipment and instruments, and some precautions are not so clear. We have learned the basic operation, as long as a set of detailed experimental scheme can be made experimental results, such a low threshold, those high school students like us are provided convenience, but also to the malicious people to take advantage of it? With such concerns, we conducted the experiment with ease under the supervision of our teacher.
But we know that not everyone is.
There is no denying that synthetic biology will bring great benefits to mankind such as clean energy, targeted drugs and efficient vaccine production. The synthesis of new chemicals, purification of the environment and good crops with various characteristics. Although the main applications of synthetic biology are still in their infancy, some applications are expected to enter the market within a few years. Emerging products will also create more jobs and hopefully create new industries. At the same time, however, synthetic biology may also pose risks in public health, ecological environment and biological protection, such as inestimable adverse effects on human health, potential impacts of accidental release of synthetic microorganisms, misuse or abuse of synthetic life, etc. The release of synthetic life into the environment, either intentionally or unintentionally, has an extremely significant and inestimable and irreparable impact on human health, ecology and public health. The town does not take synthetic life for granted. Many scientists claim that researchers can control the risks posed by synthetic life, and that self-discipline is sufficient without the need for outside scrutiny. However, even if the oil extraction technology is simple relatively and has been used for decades, oil tanker leakage will still occur, causing great harm to coastal residents and ecology. In the same way, the potential risks of synthetic life technologies are not something scientists can simply avoid through technology and self-discipline.
In our experiments, we found some biological reagent in the name of the individual purchase is a very easy thing. The purposes of synthetic DNA fragments also become more and more convenient and the incomplete specification development of science and technology is a great hidden danger, if be criminals to drill the holes of institutions, consequence is unimaginable. Our project is to improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of engineering bacteria through the surface display of VHb, so as to improve its ability and competitiveness in the low-oxygen environment to a certain extent. If applied, for example, maintaining the oxygen content in water to be stable, the ecological environment in water may be damaged, resulting in the overflow of something. In the laboratory experiment stage, some incompletely successful engineered bacteria which is not properly treated and flows into the environment, which can easily cause ecological damage. Therefore, while synthetic biology provides us with the possibility of convenience and development, it also has some hidden dangers. Without comprehensive consideration and regulation, the consequences cannot be borne by any individual or organization. We should regulate the process of operation and disposal of waste liquid and discuss and weigh the application degree and aspects.
Therefore, we also looked up some biosafety guidelines and audited a discussion on biosafety.
The purpose of biosafety specification is to ensure the biosafety of the experimenter. The sample quality is not affected, and the environment is not polluted, including risk assessment and risk control, classification of biosafety protection level in the laboratory, design principles and basic requirements, facilities and equipment requirements, etc.
In 2009, the iGEM team of Peking University had no laboratory, which was very difficult for them to finish their project. They can only buy equipment from teachers at their own expense, and materials in the name of the laboratory. Then they wondered what would happen if they bought reagents on their own rather than in a laboratory. As it turns out, 90% of companies send directly to a neighborhood or school in a non-lab area. Although some general agents are cautious, the agents at the next level or levels do not consider any security concerns, as long as they have the right reasons to distribute the reagent wherever they want.
In recent years, with the rise of shopping on the Internet, the iGEM team found that vendors selling dangerous reagents could be easily found on the websites of shopping, and they had little demand from customers who bought their products. To take an inappropriate example: a dangerous person, as long as he has enough reasons, he can buy all the materials to make explosives and create a terrorist attack.
In 2016, China's ministry of education finally began to pay attention to the issue of biosafety and forced some universities with laboratories to conduct biosafety training for students, such as Tsinghua University. Their training method is two hours offline course (basic experimental safety teaching) + follow-up meticulous teaching. (starting in 2016, self-study of online answer questions. You have to pass the exam to get the certificate, otherwise you can't graduate, and all new students have to attend 4-6 class hours on site. Each course has different safety training, for which a safety training system has been established.
In 2018, during an exchange between foreign students at Tsinghua University and Yale university, they learned about biosecurity training at Yale university. The biosafety training at Yale University is mainly online training, with a total length of 2-3h, and will be conducted online. 60 points will be passed, and only a few qualified certificates will be able to enter the laboratory. Although it’s not as strict as Tsinghua University, but to implement more strict than domestic in ordinary laboratory, such as security division (door), biological safety level, more strict processing and so on. Besides, the experimental area and living area are distinguished strictly and subsequent teaching is more meticulous, according to the different theme have supplementary teaching (e.g., radioactive safety training), thoughtful. It's more like a science lab than a teaching lab. They also conduct daily inspection during summer vacation, such as the use of protective equipment, shorts, slippers, etc.
In addition to laboratory safety issues, the limits of synthetic biology applications have been a controversial topic. Synthetic biology technology has impact on the meaning, value and meaning of traditional "life". But this ideological shock is not enough to justify the rejection of synthetic biology. First, even if synthetic biologists create life in the future, it is only biological "life" and cannot give "life" in the socio-cultural sense. If the public can participate in the evaluation, supervision of synthetic biology, the impact of this concept of life will be reduced greatly and the communication between scientists and the public will be enhanced. Second, with the development of modern science and social progress, the concept of human life is changing. Both Darwin's theory of evolution and Copernicus' heliocentric theory had impacted people's ideas at that time. Finally, science changed people's ideas and brought huge benefits to people's understanding of nature and social progress without insupportable harm. There is little moral recrimination from religious or non-religious ethicists, the bioethics commission reports. Other scholars assert that rational people would be inclined to accept synthetic life morally without more radical religious feelings. Such ethical norms do not hinder scientific development. Instead, they aim to minimize risks and maximize benefits, respect subjects and patients, distribute benefits and burdens fairly, and protect the environment. Following ethical norms will reduce adverse events in scientific research and application, avoid risks, and in the long run, promote healthy development of science. All ethical norms cannot be rejected because some of them remain controversial. Synthetic life technology is related to multiple interests, and it is inevitable to have transcendence and controversy. Unlike easily quantifiable technical standards, the risks and benefits of synthetic biology research and application are diverse and difficult to be accurately assessed.