Team:Queens Canada/Safety/Lab


Safety Proposal

We feel confident that our project does not pose a risk to ourselves, to the public, or to the environment. C. elegans, our chassis, is not a human pathogen. Working with C. elegans carries very little risk to researchers, and BSL-1 level laboratory clearance is satisfactory for work with this organism. Furthermore, microinjection of extrachromosomal arrays reduces the worm’s fitness. So, if a transgenic worm were to escape into the outside environment, it would be unlikely to have a selective advantage over wild-type worms. As well, our biobricks do not provide the worm with any selective advantages. In fact, they may reduce fitness by forcing the worm to chemotax toward naphthalene, a toxic chemical. In addition, there are a number of germline mortal C. elegans mutants. If our transgenic worm were to be used in the field, we would ensure that it contained a germline mortal mutation.

As a machine designed to chemotax toward toxic compounds, our organism poses little threat to the environment. Our transgenic worm could prove beneficial to the environment if we succeed in engineering it to degrade naphthalene. By extension, our organism could also prove beneficial to human health. We feel it is unlikely that a mutation in any of our biobricks would result in harm to humans or the environment. Mutations in our biobricks would lead to deactivation of our imported GPCRs, and  we would not expect this to alter the ability of the worm to survive and out-compete other organisms. Overall, C. elegans can be considered safer than E. coli, the standard synthetic biology chassis, because the worm is not capable of horizontal gene transfer.

Drs. Ian Chin-Sang and Kenton Ko are two of the team’s Faculty Advisors this year, and have provided the team with lab space in which we conduct all of our wet work. They are both members of the Queen’s Biohazards Committee and have ensured that we work within the appropriate biosafety regulations. Furthermore, all of our team members have undergone WHMIS and radiation safety training. Safety is one of our top priorities.