Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

On Feb. 17, 2016, Kelsey Williams got some devastating news.

Nathan Forget / Flickr

The nonprofit that runs the needle exchange program in Allegheny County is leaving it's current location in Oakland. 

Each Sunday, as many as 75 intravenous drug users or their surrogates visit the Prevention Point Pittsburgh needle exchange program at the Oakland office. But the exchange will move to East Liberty in April.

The health department is moving its clinic and wasn't able to guarantee Prevention Point would be able to use those facilities on Sundays. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When a company grows and adds satellite offices, it can often be difficult for the main office to stay connected to its remote locations.

Pittsburgh-based company NetBeez connects each site.

“I was imagining, you know, a lot of devices that are buzzing in the network and having all these devices they work like a swarm,” NetBeez co-founder Panickos Neophytou said. “It was a network of bees, so NetBeez came to mind and that is when we adopted the name.”

Larkin Page-Jacobs / 90.5 WESA

 


 

Robots are great at doing a lot of things, but they have trouble interacting with the physical world. That challenge is being tackled by roboticists in Pittsburgh — and they’re looking to infants for inspiration.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

On Dec. 15, 2016, Morgan Yoney’s life changed. She received a phone call in her hospital room – a pair of lungs had become available. Morgan had spent 21 days in the ICU at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital waiting for a lung transplant.

“They said I was on death’s doorstep,” Morgan said.

The 22-year-old’s quest for lungs had spread through the region, thanks to the “Morgan’s Army” Facebook page and a campaign by several North Hills businesses.  

Beginning of the Journey

Mark Lennihan / AP

Terminally ill people with higher body mass indices, or BMIs, are less likely to die at home than people with lower BMIs, according to a new study authored by University of Pittsburgh professor John Harris.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Nurses at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's hospital in Altoona have ratified a contract they say will increase staffing at the central Pennsylvania facility.

SEIU Healthcare PA says 96 percent of its members voted Tuesday to accept the 3-year deal. UPMC confirmed the ratification.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

Pure Sky Farms CEO Austin Webb wore a black apron over his dress shirt as he served samples to costumers at the grand opening of the new Whole Foods Market in Upper St. Clair in January.

“This is micro and petite arugula that we have right here, covered in olive oil and lava salt,” he told a customer. “Then we have cilantro with a tortilla chip.”

The customer opted for the arugula, which Webb explained was harvested that very morning.

Allegheny County

Health agencies in Allegheny County want more families to take advantage of free home visit programs.

The “Open Doors to Home Visiting” campaign was launched this week by the Allegheny County Health Department and Department of Human Services.

There are currently 36 home visit programs in the county for expectant and new mothers. Health Department Director Karen Hacker said home visit programs have been proven to work.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Feb. 3, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. 

Protesters plan to demonstrate outside of Uber’s Pittsburgh offices in the Strip District Saturday. This will mark the third weekend in a row that local residents have gathered for a protest related to the Trump administration.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Feb. 2, 2017 at 3:37 p.m. 

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials lifted the flush and boil water advisory for the city’s central and eastern neighborhoods Thursday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The precautionary boil order in effect for about half of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers will most likely remain in place through the end of the week.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Feb. 1, 2017 at 12:20 p.m. 

Approximately 100,000 Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers are under a flush and boil order.

The authority said the order for the central and eastern neighborhoods is “precautionary.”  

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In 24 hours, an all-female team of hackers called “Codebusters” created an app allowing people to manage their family finances and health needs all in one place.

They were the winning team at PNC’s second annual employee hack-a-thon.

“Really, when we walked into the door it was kind of a sprint and everything came together a couple of hours towards the end of yesterday and here we are today,” said Codebuster team member Becca Smith. “And now I know some women who want to sleep.”

University of Pittsburgh

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have helped develop a diagnostic blood test for Alzheimer ’s, which could make it easier and cheaper to detect the disease.

Pitt collaborated with researchers at the Center for Biomedicine in Italy and the University of Chile.

Neurology professor Oscar Lopez said the test will help doctors differentiate between Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Leonidas Tsementzis / Flickr

Pennsylvania is one of two states without a cigar tax. A new report from the American Lung Association says that can have an effect on youth.

Last year, Pennsylvania lawmakers increased the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, chewing tobacco by 55 cents and electronic cigarettes by 40 cents. The legislature decided, again, to not add a cigar tax.

courtesy: David Hickton

During David Hickton’s tenure as U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, from 2010-16, his office took the lead in pursuing cyber crimes and terrorism.

Now, Hickton is starting a new career path as founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security.

“With the appointment of David Hickton, the University of Pittsburgh is poised to offer significant contributions to the national discussion on cyber-related issues affecting personal, national, and global security and privacy,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

Michael Henninger / CMU

Supercomputers help people crunch big data in a number of fields, from research to weather forecasting, but not everyone has access to one or the technical savvy to make it work. Though, a new supercomputer could offer more access.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center just launched the second phase of its supercomputing system, called “Bridges,” last week. It’s among the largest supercomputers in the U.S., but according to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Senior Director of Research Nick Nystrom, it is probably the most democratic one available.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania elementary school has been closed for two days so the district can deal with high level of lead in its water, which comes from a well.

Butler Area School District Superintendent Dale Lumley apologized to irate parents who attended a Monday meeting about the problems at Summit Elementary.

Students were given bottled water for two days earlier this school year after water tests in August found lead.

Andrew Malone / Flickr

Allegheny Health Network announced it is launching same-day appointment services for primary care and some specialties starting on Monday, Jan. 23.

AHN medical director for clinical access Elie Aoun said the change is part of a broader effort to make care more “patient-centered.”

“One of the biggest pet peeves or frustrations with health care is the amount of time it sometimes can take to get in to be seen,” he said.

Richard Vogel / AP

Nearly 600 counties and municipalities across the nation have enacted restrictions on e-cigarettes and other forms of vaping in existing smoke-free public venues, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When it comes to prosthetic limbs, there can be hundreds of options. Each make and model can differ in flexibility, reflex and a long list of other variables.

But it’s not always easy for someone to find that perfect fit.  

Dr. Mary Ann Miknevich runs six clinics for Medical Rehabilitation, Inc. in the Pittsburgh area and said though her clinics have a few prosthetics on site to make sure the client gets the right fit, that's not always enough. 

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

A nonprofit consortium founded and led by Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University is receiving more than $250 million to launch American Robotics, a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing new technology.

Most of the money, $173 million, is coming from more than 200 public, private and academic partners, while the Department of Defense is chipping in $80 million in matching funds.

Claire Black / Flickr

The Allegheny County Board of Health wants children to be regularly tested for lead poisoning.

The board is moving forward with a new rule that would mandate blood testing at 9 months and again at 2 years of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said children in that age range put things in their mouths, making them more susceptible to poisoning than adults.

Alden Chadwick / Flickr

In response to a sharp increase in the number of new syphilis cases in Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force is offering free testing for the disease.

According to the Allegheny County Department of Health, the number of new primary and secondary syphilis cases in the county jumped by 90 percent from 2014 to 2015. Health Department Medical Director of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Program Harold Wiesenfeld said the data for 2016 is incomplete but he does not expect to see much change from the year prior. 

National Eye Institute / National Institutes of Health

A new approach to retinal imaging developed at the University of Pittsburgh could lead to earlier diagnoses of eye diseases like glaucoma. The technique provides a detailed picture of the back of the eye, which could help ophthalmologists determine the health of cells essential for vision.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

This month, Pittsburgh-based Sharp Edge Labs partnered with a Japanese pharmaceutical firm to expand research that could cure a small percentage of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma CO., Ltd. is pairing with Sharp Edge in its research looking at protein trafficking, which is the movement of proteins within a cell to the receptor for which they were created.

Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

Allegheny Health Network hopes to fill a gap in coverage for new moms with an Intensive Outpatient Program. Clinical psychologist Rebecca Weinberg said treatment for mothers suffering from pregnancy-related depression often jumps between regular outpatient care and expensive in-patient care.

A new three-hour intensive outpatient program at Western Pennsylvania Hospital three days a week will offer intensive group therapy, medication management and allow women to bring their babies with them.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Two major prescription drug distributors have agreed to pay $36 million to settle a West Virginia lawsuit alleging they fueled West Virginia's opioid epidemic with excessively large shipments of painkillers into the state over several years.

State officials on Monday say Cardinal Health will pay $20 million and AmerisourceBergen will pay $16 million under the terms that have now been filed with Boone County Circuit Court.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing.

Judge William Thompson disclosed the proposed settlements two weeks ago with no details.

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