The UC San Diego team recognizes the importance of safety and security to both scientists and the environment when working in a laboratory environment. Our host lab, Zhang Laboratories, follows the BSL-2 guidelines and implements the following safety procedures.
General Wetlab Safety
Before beginning our wet lab work this summer, we were given a tour of lab and received training for general laboratory safety. We were shown the locations of safety showers, eye-washes, spill kits, and fire extinguishers, as well as the emergency evacuation route in case of fire. In addition, we were instructed for proper waste disposal, as we were introduced to the autoclaving protocol and specific chemical waste protocols according to the compounds used.
When working in the lab, our iGEM members’ first step in following basic safety protocol was dressing in proper PPE attire. This included long pants that covered the ankles, close-toed shoes, lab coats, and nitrile gloves. When experimenting using harmful UV light, UV resistant lab goggles were also worn.
The whole lab team had previously worked in laboratories with at least the same Biosafety Level, and had therefore received the UC San Diego Environmental Health and Safety training. Though familiar with work requirements and the lab environment, when dealing with new protocols or equipment, an experienced member of the Zhang Lab demonstrated proper usage and provided supervision to ensure safety and proper execution.
Project Specific Laboratory Safety
Extra precaution was taken when working with ethidium bromide, a potent mutagen known to cause cancer. The chemical was kept on a separate, specified lab bench and gloves were immediately discarded as to not contaminate other areas of the workspace. EtBr gels were also discarded in designated waste containers. Furthermore, hands were washed immediately after using ethidium bromide and always before leaving the laboratory.
For cloning purposes, we employed antibiotics such as kanamycin and chloramphenicol, which can be known to be biologically hazardous at high concentrations. Chronic exposure through contact with the eyes, inhalation, or ingestion can cause potentially hazardous effects. To combat this risk, proper PPE, including safety glasses and gloves, were worn to reduce exposure. In addition, after working with antibiotics and E.Coli, members always made sure to properly wash their hands after experimentation.
Future Application Risks
Epinoma’s projected product has been designed to be a self-contained and non-infection rapid diagnostics test. However, this product requires a small blood draw, which can be safely executed by health care professionals or at home through sterilized equipment and proper disposal of biological materials and tests.