Safety is of critical importance for iGEM, which not only to protect ourselves and others but also to facilitate us in making our project SANCE smoothly. As undergraduate scientists, by strictly following the rules and taking sufficient lab activities training in advance, we are able to avoid those unnecessary accidents.
We used the laboratory Saccharomyces cerevisiae auxotrophic strain FY4, the laboratory Escherichia coli DH5alpha strain, and the laboratory Escherichia coli TOP10 strain. All strains are research model strains and are commonly used in research. The fungus S. cerevisiae is commonly used in food production and lab research. Although S. cerevisiae has been reported on extremely rare occasions as an opportunistic pathogen, they are routinely used in the food industry to produce food (e.g., beer, bread, etc.) and therefore are unlikely to pose any health problems. The bacteria E. coli can be found in the intestines of people and animals, it is also commonly used for research in the laboratory. It is considered harmless unless a large quantity is ingested, which will lead to diarrhea. We strictly followed the guidance and no health or laboratory leak issues happened during our experiment.
In our institution, the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) of the University of Macau, an administrative body regularly checks all laboratories whether they meet the safety standards that are in place. Before entering the lab, all lab team members will do safety training and take an exam. The outcome of the safety training is:
1. We are familiar with the characteristics of the organisms and chemical reagents that we are using, and understand the possibilities of these materials that can risk the human body if any direct contact happens.
2. We are aware of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Lab coats and various protective devices such as goggles and gloves are well equipped. No slippers, sandals, contact lenses, or makeup are allowed.
3. We are familiar with the waste disposal rules. The waste materials and liquid waste generated by experiments are properly sorted and treated by strict disposal rules to avoid any harm to experimenters and the environment.
4. We are aware of the leakage risk. All the cells will be autoclaved or bleached to avoid their release to the wild.
All of our experiments were done in the building East12 (E12) of the Faculty of Health Science, at the University of Macau. The laboratory is ensured to meet the safety standard by our institution. It is fully equipped with safety facilities, such as the emergency button, oxygen level detectors, fire alarm system, fire fighting equipment, emergency eyewash and shower, and first aid box and spill kit. The waste disposal equipment in the laboratory is integrated to deal with different types of waste. For example, biohazard waste will be disposed of in the biohazard bin, and Sharps, Needles, and Syringes will be disposed of in a sharp bin.
Fig 1. Photo of our bench
Fig 2. Photo of our lab
Biological leakage is a major concern for our products. If our project is successful and permitted to real industrial production, we will remove our genetically modified yeast by filtration before our products are packed and sealed. The complete removal of the modified yeast will prevent them from being released to the environment. For the food safety aspect, according to the content of the food safety risk assessment released by the Macau government, our products need to pass the food safety risk assessment before production and selling. Food safety risk assessment refers to the scientific assessment of the possibility and risk degree of biological, chemical, and physical hazards in food causing adverse effects on human health. It consists of four steps: determining the hazards in food (hazard identification), analyzing the characteristics of hazards (hazard characterization), estimating the level of hazards in population intake (exposure assessment), and analyzing the characteristics of food risks (risk characterization).