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

Essential apps for your diabetes toolbox

Sponsored Content

In recent years we’ve seen the arrival of a new tool in the ‘diabetes toolbox’ and it isn’t a new diet or pill. In fact, it’s found inside the smartphone that you likely carry everywhere you go. For people who live with diabetes, many are discovering the benefits of using mobile apps for helping with everything from carb counting to fitness tracking to healthy cooking and blood glucose (BG) monitoring. So how do you know which one might be helpful for you?

Food-Related Apps

  1. Carbs & Cals: Diet & Diabetes –  The Carbs & Cals app contains 3,500+ food photos to help you get your portion size just right.   Up to 6 portion photos are provided for each food item and you can choose from carbs, calories, protein, fat, saturated fat, fibre, alcohol units and 5-a-day fruit & veg for the nutrition information provided. You can track meals, snacks and exercise too. Carbs&Cals is available for iOS and Android and costs $4.99.
  2. Calorie King® – Provides a quick reference database for easy searching of over 100,000 food items and a full nutrient breakdown is provided. It includes fast food chains and allows barcode scanning. Keep in mind that it is an American database so you won’t be able to find all Canadian restaurants and food products.  The CalorieKing Calorie Counter is only available on iOS. It is free to download and use, but is supported by advertising. 

Activity-Related Apps

App users have been shown to increase exercise levels and have more positive results in managing their weight.  Try a few out and see what works best to get you moving more to help balance out those blood glucose levels.

  1.  MyFitnessPal – A smartphone app and website that track exercise to help meet health and weight loss goals.  It also allows tracking of food intake by scanning the barcodes of various food items or manually add them in to the database of over five million different foods.  MyFitnessPal is available on both iOS and Android and is free to download and use, but is supported by advertising.
  2.  If you enjoy walking, running or biking, GPS based apps like Strava, Map My Ride/Walk/Run/Fitness and Nike Run Club track your distance, speed, pace and progress over time.  You can discover new routes wherever you are and challenge friends to meet new goals.  Share your workouts with followers who can provide encouragement and supportive messages helping you to stay committed to your fitness routine.  They are all available on both iOS and Android, they sync with multiple trackers and watches and are free with the option of in-app purchases.


Blood Glucose Monitoring Apps

And last but certainly not least, there are many options to help you with blood glucose monitoring and diabetes tracking apps to help you manage your individual blood glucose challenges.  Bluetooth® connectivity allows us to simplify diabetes management and data sharing by integrating BG results with food, insulin and activity into a smartphone.  The most downloaded diabetes app in Canada* is the One Touch Reveal® app, which wirelessly connects with the One Touch Verio Flex® blood glucose meter. It uses ColourSure® technology to transform your BG data into quick, visual personalized snapshots that can highlight when you have been repeatedly out of range.  The app is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded for free.

*As reported for all diabetes management apps downloaded in Canada in 2017 from Google Play and Apple iOS App Stores. Research2Guidance data Q42017.



  1. https://www.carbsandcals.com/app/app
  2. https://www.calorieking.com/
  3. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
  4. https://www.strava.com/
  5. https://www.mapmyrun.com/
  6. https://www.nike.com/ca/en_gb/c/running/nike-run-club

The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, and any use of such marks by LifeScan Scotland Ltd. is under license.



7 Quick Tips for Drinking with Type 1 Diabetes

Alright, we already know that there are risks associated with drinking alcohol. But is there a way to drink responsibly with diabetes? The answer is yes!

We sat down with our JDRF Marketing & Communications summer student, Evelyn Riddell, who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to get her quick tips on how to drink responsibly with T1D:  

  1. Always eat throughout the evening and especially before bed

“We’ve all heard the saying ‘don’t drink on an empty stomach’, and this is especially true for someone with type 1 diabetes. Drinking on an empty stomach can result in faster absorption of the alcohol, as well as more rapid decreases in blood sugar levels. Most importantly, always have some long-acting carbs before bed. These carbs are important for stabilizing you while sleeping, since the alcohol in your system will continue to work to lower blood sugars throughout the night.”

  1. “Temp basal” over-night

“Since alcohol can stay in your system for many hours, it is important to take precautions to prevent low blood sugars overnight. A good guideline to follow is to set a temp basal[1] approximately -30% over night. Do this for 1 hour per full drink consumed. For example, if you consumed 4 beers, temp basil -30% for 4 hours. This being said, over time you will figure out how your body responds to alcohol, and based on your tolerance should develop a temp basil routine that works best for you”.

  1. Set your alarm in the middle of the night

“Going low in the middle of the night can be a scary experience. Whether you have a Continuous Glucose Monitor or not, set alarms during the night to wake up and check in on your blood sugars. This is especially important if you live alone. If you do live independently, consider staying the night at a friend’s house for extra peace of mind overnight.”

  1. Catch the lows before they happen

“If you wear a CGM, try setting the low alerts higher than they would usually be. This will help you to identify and treat lows before they happen. If you do not wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor, check your blood sugar regularly to establish trends and identify lows early.”

  1. Always wear a piece of medical ID

“The signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar are extremely similar to those of being intoxicated, and can easily be confused by those around you. Make sure that you have a piece of medical identification for your peers and medical professionals in case of any emergency.”

  1. Know what you’re drinking

“Some drinks (such a beer) typically cause you to go low, while more sugar-based drinks cause you to spike now and drop later. It is important to know what you are drinking, in order to be aware of/prepare for your blood sugars later on; eating while consuming drinks with high alcohol content is a good idea to prevent lows later on, eating while consuming heavily sugared drinks isn’t as wise since it will only spike your blood sugar higher for the short term. Make sure you know what type you’re drinking.”

  1. Make sure a friend knows about your condition and understands how to help

“That way if you tell them you’re low, they can help you locate some fast acting snacks (or better yet, have some for you!).”

We hope these tips help you enjoy good times with your friends and family while keeping your blood sugar levels in check. The main thing is to remember to drink responsibly by remaining conscious of all the factors mentioned above.


[1] A temporary basal rate allows an immediate short-term change to your basal insulin for a specified period of time (30 minutes to 24 hours).  It offers an easy way to immediately meet short-term insulin needs for temporary activities or situations. The -30% temp basal concept was conceived by Gary Scheiner Temp basal should be used based on the guidance of your healthcare professional.



TEDDY study offers insights into causes of early T1D

What if we were able to tell what some of the triggers for type 1 diabetes (T1D) are? A JDRF-supported project aims to do just that.

The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) is following more than 7,000 at-risk children from infancy to 15 years of age to determine the causes of T1D. Six groups of researchers from across the world are collaborating to examine the impact of diet, illnesses, allergies and a host of other life experiences among children who are highly susceptible to the disease. The study population comes from three U.S. clinical centers in Seattle, Denver, and a combined group from the Augusta-Atlanta areas in Georgia and Gainesville, Florida, plus centers in Sweden, Finland and Germany.

JDRF investigator and TEDDY study coordinator at the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Krischer, unveiled new results that identify clues as to what causes some people to progress to T1D and others to be protected. At the last American Diabetes Association’s conference held in June, he presented findings suggesting there is a correlation between age of onset, genetics and the type of autoantibodies that appear initially.

Dr. Krischer revealed that children who develop islet autoimmunity early tend to progress faster to T1D due to the development of antibodies attacking the individual’s own proteins (called autoantibodies). Those who develop islet autoimmunity later in childhood, however, tend to develop different autoantibodies and progress more slowly.

“We are investigating different etiological factors related to pathogenesis and also how autoimmunity progresses to diabetes,” says Dr. Krischer. “This is brand new information and vitally important for everyone who is dealing with children who show signs of autoimmunity, and the initiation of processes leading to clinical diabetes.”

Funded by JDRF, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other organizations, the TEDDY consortium was created to advance our understanding of how environment alters immunity, bringing us closer to prevention of T1D. JDRF has supported TEDDY since its inception in 2004, and is currently funding Dr. Krischer for follow-up of children taking part in the study.

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