1. Would the materials used in your project and/or your final
a. Risks to the safety and health of team members or others in the
The biological device in which we worked on this project doesn’t pose
a risk to any of the team members’ health if correctly handled, however we
should always consider that they carry an antibiotic resistance.
Nevertheless, we must also take in mind the chemicals employed
in the methods used for the completion of this project. In order to dispose
any of those hazardous substances, besides following the General Safety
Regulations of the Laboratory, we also followed the Safety Regulations of
Centro de Biotecnología FEMSA. For example, in agarose gel electrophoresis
ethidium bromide and SYBR green are commonly used; in this case, we
followed a protocol for handling and disposal of the chemicals, placing objects
contaminated with it in special containers. In the case of pipette tips, those
were treated with benzal and sterilized by autoclave. These measures were
done to avoid direct contact between team members and hazardous material.
b. Risks to the safety and health of the general public if released
by design or accident?
Concerning the risks to people in general, the most dangerous
problem we observed is the exposure to microorganisms that are resistant to
antibiotics, posing a threat on the treatment of many diseases. For this
reason, we concealed our bacteria for lab use only following the appropriate
measures for handling and disposing them, such as sterilizing the tubes and
dishes containing modified bacteria after using them. Regarding chemical
substances, we assured that every chemical used was properly disposed,
even gloves used by the team when they made contact with any hazardous
substance, to make sure no people alien to the lab could be exposed to the
c. Risks to environmental quality if released by design or
Our biological devices pose few risks to the environment since
we are using enzymes already present in other bacteria and non-dangerous
substrates and products. However, there is a slight environmental concern
in one of our constructs. This construct employs cellulose as a substrate,
and since all plants have cellulose in their cell wall it is possible that they
could be degraded under unusual circumstances, thus generating a negative
environmental impact. Again, caution measures must be taken in order to
have the modified bacteria concealed so they don’t pose a direct threat to the
d. Risks to security through malicious misuse by individuals,
Our project doesn’t have any point of risk in regards of biosecurity. Due
to the nature of the process and the microorganisms involved, the devices do
not cause any hazard that could be misused by individuals, groups or states
to affect people’s security and wellbeing.
Please explain your responses (whether yes or no) to these
Specifically, are any parts or devices in your project associated
(or known to cause):
- pathogenicity, infectivity, or toxicity?
Neither of our devices has an associated risk in these fields. The only
possible concern could be the EstA protein used in the device, because it is
capable of the production of a toxin when the entire sequence is used; but since
only a partial sequence of this protein is needed in the device (only the
membrane expressing part), the toxin cannot be synthesized and the risk is
- threats to environmental quality?
There is a very little, if none at all, concern about threats on the
environment by our devices. As previously explained, if modified bacteria with
the cellulase gene are misused or escape, there is a possibility that plants will
have contact with them, creating a possible environmental damage especially
if the affected organisms are ecologically valuable. However, this scenario
is more a concern than a menace, as bacteria need to grow under
specific conditions, and plants themselves have defense mechanisms against
pathogenic microorganisms, so that possibility is greatly diminished.
- security concerns?
No, our project does not posess any danger to security in general,
because the enzymes are designed only to convert sucrose into glucose and
fructose, and cellulose on glucose. Regarding the rest of the devices, the
parts only complement the enzymes to allow them to express and function
properly, so they don’t pose a security threat.
2. If your response to any of the questions above is yes:
a. Explain how you addressed these issues in project design and while conducting laboratory work.
When designing our project, thanks to the opinion of many professors,
we considered the risks that our device could have because of the enzymes
and the reaction catalyzed. Interestingly enough, the enzymes are already
used in other industries such as food and cleaning industries, so the
measures taken to confine the bacteria were effective in case there was a risk
to the environment or health in general. To accomplish an acceptable safety
level, during the work time at the laboratory, every time bacteria with the
constructs were handled, said work was done inside a laminar flow hood, disinfected before and after being
used. Disposed materials were placed in red bags for biological hazardous
waste, and then sterilized in autoclave. In the end, the material was stored in red
containers so they could be disposed by a certified company.
3. Under what biosafety provisions will / do you operate?
a. Does your institution have its own biosafety rules and if so
what are they?
Up to this date, there is not a general biosafety handbook for the
university’s laboratories. Nevertheless, we used the handbook provided to us
by the university’s research center, that consists in a handbook for handling
and disposal of hazardous biological waste and a handbook with the
safety rules that must be followed within the lab (link)
. Thanks to this, we
were able to take the appropriate safety measures in the academic lab where
we worked along the summer for this project.
b. Does your institution have an Institutional Biosafety Committee
equivalent group? If yes, have you discussed your project with
Describe any concerns or changes that were made based on this
Yes, the university’s research center, “Centro de Biotecnologia
FEMSA”, has a Biosecurity Committee, composed of three doctors from the
institution. All of them received information about our project, the laboratory
protocols that we were using, and the biosafety measures we had; this was
done to have our project checked by them so it could be improved.
The Commitee told us that everything was in order and that we were
following appropriately the measures taken in the university. However, one
of them noted a point that we had overlooked: that the use of cellulase
in a construct could affect the environment because cellulose is the main
component of plants, representing thus a little biosafety concern. For this
reason, the Commitee suggested us to follow the already established
biosafety regulations, to not accidentally free transformed bacteria into the
c. Will / did you receive any biosafety and/or lab training before
beginning your project? If so, describe this training.
Before initiating the project, some of our team members had already
been to a conference about the laboratory rules that must be followed in the
university’s Research Center, “Centro de Biotecnologia FEMSA”. The rest of
us went to this conference when the project started. In this conference, the
Research Center coordinators provided us with the rules that we had to follow in
those laboratories. The rulebook was adapted to the academic laboratory
where we worked, the Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Diagnosis
Also, Marco Mata, head of the Research Center Safety
Commission, supported us in the biosafety aspect of the project, informing us
about the biosafety measures followed in the Research Center, and allowing
us to take the same measures to our lab to work along the summer.
d. Does your country have national biosafety regulations or
In Mexico, in matters of biosafety, there is a Regulation for the handling
of Hazardous Biological Waste, which we followed to properly dispose all
the waste generated by the project. (link).
Moreover, there is a Biosafety Law for
Genetically Modified Organisms (link).