iGEM should be fun, but first and foremost it should be safe. At the University of Oslo, we, the UiOslo_Norway 2018 team, have taken great measures to ensure that we conducted our work in a safe and appropriate fashion.
Before starting laboratory work, we attended compulsory Health and Safety lectures.
Appropriate clothing was worn at all times, including lab coats, gloves, and goggles.
To manage risks, we used lab coats and gloves when working with our organisms, properly disinfected work surfaces with ethanol before and after use, and worked in a biosafety cabinet class II. Waste was collected in a designated container and disposed of in a safe manner (e.g. treated with strong detergent).
Another important step in avoiding dangers is understanding what you are working with. As such, Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) were always available for all substances we used in the lab. For our chassis, we used TOP10, BL21, and DH5alpha. We exclusively used standard laboratory Escherichia coli strains.
During our time in the lab we took part in a fire drill, which was covered by our lectures in Health and Safety.
Under no circumstance were food or drinks permitted in the lab.
We are detecting Candida albicans (C. albicans), which is an opportunistic pathogen. As a proof of concept, we used Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae). The cell wall of S. cerevisiae is very similar to the cell wall of C. albicans. Therefore, we were using S. cerevisiae for testing the activity of our glucanase biobrick. In the unlikely event of our model organism escaping the lab, it would pose no threat to the health of humans or animals.
Product design and purification
Our intended final product will be a test kit for vulvovaginal C. albicans. We intend for the consumer to use a sterile swab, which will then be placed in a container. The container will only contain a harmless buffer and purified protein, with no toxins or live organisms present.
Nitrocefin is a cephalosporin, and has antibiotic activity. Thus, it needs to be disposed of in a safe setting according to national guidelines. Because of this, our test kit will only be available to be used in either a doctor's office or pharmacy.
β-lactamase cleaves the beta-lactam ring on penicillins and other beta-lactam antiobiotics. Included in the kit is split β-lactamase, which only becomes functional when both parts are in the close proximity of C. albicans DNA. In the unlikely event of spillage, no organism would obtain DNA coding for functional β-lactamase.
Note that our product will not be used to diagnose or treat disease unless we have the appropriate permits from a governing body, properly supervised by a clinician. We will, however, first test our product in a lab setting using S. cerevisiae grown on plates.
Labwork is important – but more important is taking care of ourselves. Therefore, we scheduled regular breaks for those in the lab.
Any time spent in the lab was supervised, either directly or indirectly by our supervisors. When they were not available, the responsibility was temporarily given to a senior member of the lab.
Whenever we were unsure on how to operate a given instrument, we made sure to ask, instead of risking damage to ourselves or the lab.
Our shipments were done in accordance with national and iGEM HQ guidelines, containing no products that could pose harm to human, animal, or plant health.
Don’t break the law
We take great care to operate within the law at all times. Should you be interested in reading these, they may be found here