Joanna Wilson and Lauren Stephen at the January meetup

Type 1 diabetes and 3D printing artificial body parts

Health Hackathon 2019 @ Nov.8-10, 2019

We had our most successful meetup to date on Jan 18th at Innovation Factory - McMaster Innovation Park! Thank you to everyone that came out to listen to Joanna Wilson and Lauren Stephen. Innovation Factory was very gracious with giving us their fabulous space. It gave us an opportunity to mix and mingle, and some great conversations sprung up.

Joanna Wilson, an Associate Professor of Biology at McMaster University shared with us her experiences as a parent of a child who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just over a year ago. Her daughter is currently treated with multiple daily injections of insulin and her blood sugar is monitored with a continuous glucose monitoring device.


Joanna discussed the basics of care for a person with T1D and the major challenges that families face in delivering that care inside and outside of the home, including school. Since the body doesn’t have insulin, blood sugar can rise and drop, often unpredictably, and needs immediate intervention and management. This can be a real challenge for parents when children are at school or elsewhere without a caregiver.

Joanna described the options for insulin delivery and blood sugar monitoring essential for T1D and where technology has helped her family cope with the high demands of this disease. Two devices which help families improve T1D management are Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and Flash Glucose Monitoring (FGM). CGM is a small wearable device that tracks glucose throughout the day and night, notifying of highs and lows so caregivers can take action. Insulin Pumps (tubeless and tubed pumps) make administering insulin easier. Near the end of her presentation, Joanna discussed some of the frustrations that parents face when helping their child manage their disease. She described some mobile health apps designed for other aspects of life in T1D management but also made a plea for better apps, that integrated aspects of care. She also called for innovation in the delivery device for glucagon, a life-saving treatment, that can be adopted by schools.


Lauren Stephen and group members shared 3D Printing backgrounds and their Medical Phantom Project. Even showed artificial body parts, like printing finger. The Medical Phantom Project is a student-led project that works with the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Mohawk College. The team aims to design a new type of 3D printer capable of producing viable medical phantoms that is cheaper than the current way phantoms are made.

Hamilton Spectator article: Medical phantoms may give Mohawk students a real-life win.

These phantoms are artificial body parts that can be used for medical purposes such as rehearsing surgeries or calibrating imaging instruments, or to plan radiation therapy. So far, the group has been doing applied research to see which types of materials they can use in a 3D printer to create synthetic bone, flesh, and organs. Their goal is to test materials for printing phantoms, adapting and modifying a 3D printer to alter its extrusion capabilities, and to develop software for microcontroller boards and converting MRI images to STL file format. They will be keeping their source code open and hope to grow and continue the research.