It is the responsibility of the PI to obtain and update relevant (IRB and) biosafety approvals prior to starting any new experiments. Any significant change in sample processing or instrumentation requires renewed risk assessment and may warrant a new protocol submission. Some common examples include change from fixed to viable samples, change in used facility, and change from analytical instrument to a cell sorter.
- No individual PI nor Service Center staff member can give permission to run samples without current biosafety approval (or exempt designation)
COVID-19 specific updates to biosafety
Please note that while the general biosafety rules related to working with biological samples that are potentially infectious and/or contain recombinant DNA (please see below) have not changed, we have recently added a few extra rules on using shared laboratory space and instruments during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Until we have a more thorough risk assessment and viral testing available, each core facility user must behave as if they were an asymptomatic carrier. If you have symptoms (such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of taste or smell) or have other reason to believe you might be infected, you are not allowed to use our facilities and should stay home.
The added biosafety rules during COVID-19 pandemic:
- You must wear a face mask and fresh pair of gloves at all times while working within our facilities
- Remove the gloves when you leave
- Maintain the 6ft social distancing at all times
- Only one person working at an instrument at any time and room specific maximum occupancy; do not come in groups
- A minimum of 30 minutes between consecutive instrument reservations
- For assisted use, drop off the samples and leave (after short consultation) if feasible; give clear written instructions to the staff in advance
- Working on existing data using your own computer outside our facilities is encouraged
- No one-on-one new user training available for now; consultation and troubleshooting available remotely (phone, zoom etc)
- Disinfect all working surfaces, instrument control panels, door handle etc. before and after use
- Non-bleach wipes and/or 70% ethanol spray, let stand for 5 minutes
- 10% bleach for sample spills only; never use directly on instruments
- Cover computer keyboard and mouse with plastic wrap before use
- Remove wrap when finished and clean with non-bleach wipes as needed
Benchtop analytic flow cytometers are fully enclosed systems. The biological hazards associated with them relate to sample preparation and handling rather than the instrument itself. The main problem is with contamination of external surfaces or a sample spill onto a work surface or floor in an environment not set up to handle this. Normal laboratory safety procedures should be followed when preparing and handling biological samples (see federal and institutional biosafety guidelines below). Specifically related to the use of our analytical instruments:
- It is best, whenever the experiment permits, to fix samples before analysis
- BSL-2 level samples (e.g. any viable human cell or cell line prep) cannot be pipetted, strained or vortexed outside of a biosafety cabinet (not available in our instrument rooms) and must be transferred between lab spaces within leak proof secondary containment
- Take any leftover samples and tubes back to your own lab and dispose according to institutional guidelines
- After running unfixed samples, the sample lines should be decontaminated by running a disinfectant, such as 10% bleach or Contrad70.
- The contents of the waste container should always be sterilized by the addition of disinfectant (10% final bleach concentration) before disposal.
Cell sorters have increased biosafety concerns due to the possibility for tremendous uncontrolled aerosol generation (especially in case of a nozzle clog). All the same rules apply than with analytical instruments plus the following:
- Any viable (non-fixed) cell sort must adhere at minimum to BSL-2 level precautions and user must be familiar with the protocol to handle nozzle clogs
- Any viable (non-fixed) human cell sort must adhere to BSL-2+ level precautions and can be performed only by trained staff (assisted use only)
Federal and institutional biosafety guidelines
- UTHealth biosafety program website, https://www.uth.edu/safety/biological-safety
- UTHealth biosafety manual, https://www.uth.edu/safety/biological-safety/BSM19%20revised%206-17.pdf
- ISAC cell sorting biosafety standards, https://isac-net.org/page/Biosafety
- Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL, 5th edition), https://www.cdc.gov/labs/BMBL.html
- NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines), https://osp.od.nih.gov/biotechnology/nih-guidelines/
- Samples containing radioactive materials are not permitted on any of the Service Center instruments nor in any of our laboratory space.
- The flow cytometer instruments contain Class 3B lasers which can cause eye damage. The lasers must be covered at all times and may be exposed only by a service engineer. Never look directly to the laser line or put any reflective object in the light path.