Safety is the main concern that all the research institutions should put in mind. We at Cairo University are putting safety as one of our top priorities to protect both humans and the environment.
Thus, every team member working in the lab has studied biosafety and biosecurity course and knows very well how to handle microorganisms, hazardous materials, and wastes. We also met with professor Mostafa Mokhtar, a representative for the biosafety project of the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) at the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. He explained that Egypt is one of 103 signatory countries of “The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity” which is looking forward to protecting the biological diversity from potential risks possessed by engineered microorganisms resulting from Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology. Keeping his words in mind, we were concerned that each team member in the lab should be aware and follow the safety and security guidelines to prevent any potential harms that may affect the environment or humans.
Starting from our workplace, the lab is a BSL 1.We always work on sterilized benches and between two flames, or in the laminar flow if it is necessary.Regarding the personal protective equipment and clothing, we always wear a lab coat, clean gloves whenever we work in the lab, and goggles when needed.
Following with handling organisms; microorganisms used are biosafety level 1, which poses no danger to the environment or humankind. We used Escherichia coli K-12, BL21, TOP10 and DH5-Alpha strains for transformation. In addition to Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Debaryomyces hansenii which are also used as chassis as they are more convenient than Escherichia coli for our project. And both of them do not pose any kind of harm or risk. We are also concerned about the release of those microorganisms, accordingly, all of our wastes are disposed in the right bins as they should be. Biological wastes containing microorganisms are autoclaved before disposing and are thrown in the right waste box. Dangerous wastes are also disposed in specific waste boxes.
For chemicals we frequently use, we read all the material safety data sheets, especially for the chemicals holding potential hazards to us or the environment. The following are chemicals we use that have some hazardous effects
1- Ethidium bromide is used with caution following all the instructions in ethidium bromide MSDS, as ethidium bromide is toxic if inhaled, also it may be a carcinogen and teratogen.We followed all the safety precautions needed while preparation in addition to the proper disposal of the agarose gel afterwards.
2- Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) is used, it shows very few toxic symptoms in humans. The most common are nausea, skin rashes and an unusual garlic-onion-oyster smell on body and breath, thus we handled and stored it as written in the MSDS.
3- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SDS) is also one of the chemicals we use to visualize the protein we viewed the MSDS of which, knowing that it is flammable solid, harmful if swallowed or if inhaled, causes skin irritation, causes serious eye damage and may cause respiratory irritation. We followed all the safety precautions needed in addition to the proper disposal of the polyacrylamide gel afterwards.
Keeping in mind that we have to handle instrument in proper way, we use UV visualizer wearing the right PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). In addition, we are very cautious while using the autoclave knowing that it has to reach zero in the scale of pressure before we open it.