Ontario teens develop innovative survival kit for people with diabetes

For most people, a power failure is a huge inconvenience. However, for someone living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), it can be a daunting – and potentially fatal – experience since their insulin needs to be kept refrigerated.

High-school student, Mackenzie Keeler, recognized the challenge and decided to do something about it. Along with a team of 10 other students from M.M. Robinson High School in Burlington (ON), she created a survival kit to ride out extreme weather conditions for people with T1D.

Called Insta-lin, the teens’ invention features crystallized insulin that doesn’t spoil should electricity be lost during a natural disaster. Keeler and her team developed the novel product this past summer in British Columbia while attending SHAD, a pan-Canadian, month-long enrichment and entrepreneurship program for high school students.

Each dose is made by extracting saline from a vial into a syringe where the crystals dissolve into the solution, creating insulin. Along with cotton swabs and bandages, the kit contains 20 adjustable doses of insulin to last 10 days in the event that a support team cannot be dispatched sooner to provide further aid.

“Injectable insulin can only be safe for use between 0°C and 30°C, but Canadian temperatures can fluctuate dramatically,” explains Keeler, in an interview with the Burlington Post. “So we created a product that can last between what we estimate to be between -100°C and 50°C, and withstand those extreme temperatures.”

The theme for this year’s design-entrepreneurship project was how to help Canadian communities be resilient in natural disasters. Participants heard firsthand accounts from experts who had assisted with floods in New Brunswick and Calgary, hurricanes in Nova Scotia and wildfires in British Columbia.

Founded in 1980, SHAD provides the opportunity for more than 900 students from across Canada and internationally to attend its STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) month-long program in-residence at one of its Canadian host universities.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog

Lets turn type one into type none