Science, Health & Tech

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

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

For pediatric cancer patients, their chances of having children in the future can be diminished by treatment. But an experimental treatment available at UPMC could preserve fertility for young boys going through radiation.

Spermatogonial stem-cell transplantation involves taking a sample of testicular tissue and turning pre-sperm cells into viable samples. When re-inserted into testes, even if they're damaged by radiation and chemotherapy, the sperm stem cells function as they would naturally and become sperm.

Susan Walsh / AP

After a damaging report on the opioid crisis from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino withdrew his name this week as the next possible drug czar under the Trump Administration.

Whistleblowers and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration employees say Marino, a Republican from Lycoming County, lead the way to pass a bill that essentially handcuffed them from doing their job.

Highmark's Allegheny Health Network Announces $1B Expansion

Oct 18, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Highmark Health will spend $1 billion to expand its Allegheny Health Network hospital chain, including a new 160-bed hospital in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs, four smaller neighborhood hospitals, and renovations to existing hospitals, the Pittsburgh-based company announced Wednesday.

Highmark Health, the parent of health insurer Highmark Inc. and its eight-hospital network, announced earlier this year that it's spending $315 million on a new cancer institute at its flagship Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and other expansions of its facilities in Erie.

Facebook / Screenshot

Pittsburghers woke up this morning to find they had unknowingly been transported to Philadelphia, according to their Facebook accounts.

Facebook released a statement saying:  “Earlier today, a bug caused some people in Pittsburgh to get prompts related to Philadelphia. We've fixed the issue.”

The bug caused the site's location software to think Yinzers were visiting the City of Brotherly Love.

Tony Talbot / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is using $4 million in federal aid to help start up four regional medication-assisted programs to treat people struggling with drug addiction.

The $1 million grants announced Tuesday will be anchored by four health systems in Pennsylvania.

They are going to Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, Danville-based Geisinger, York-based WellSpan Health and Harrisburg's Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a collaboration between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

Lance Davidson and Rafey Feroze / University of Pittsburgh

The potential of tissue engineering is huge -- think replacement cartilage or artificial organs -- but current techniques are inefficient. 

If an engineer were building a house, they'd consider the properties of the materials they were using and the physical forces acting upon them.

If they're building biological tissue, they'll want to do the same.

Wolf Blames Trump, Congress For Spiking Health Coverage Cost

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is blaming President Donald Trump for a sharp increase in the cost of health insurance that'll take effect next year for residents who buy individual plans.

Wolf's administration released the approved 2018 rates Monday, saying the average increase will be just over 30 percent. Wolf's office said the increase would've been less than 8 percent if Trump hadn't halted cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers or created uncertainty around the fate of the individual mandate.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania's leading hospital association and advocates for the poor all reacted strongly Friday to a move by the Trump administration to stop paying cost-sharing subsidies that have helped lower the price of health insurance policies sold through the Healthcare.gov marketplace.

Jonathan Alvarsson / flickr

Pennsylvania's auditor general says a survey of nearly 1,000 school districts and municipalities finds that most do not employ a cyber security professional or consult with one.

Robert Pfeil / AP

The influenza virus spreads one person at at time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infected individual coughs, sneezes or even just talks, and airborne droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people up to 6 feet away.

PA Offering $5M Worth Of Naloxone To First Responders

Oct 6, 2017
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Pennsylvania will spend $5 million on the overdose-reversal medication naloxone to help first responders fight the toll of the opioid epidemic, state officials announced Thursday.

UPMC

UPDATED: Oct. 6, 2017 at 12:14 p.m.

Doctors at UPMC have performed a cutting edge form of surgery to repair the heart after severe heart attacks for the first time in the United States.

Less Invasive Ventricular Enhancement, or LIVE, uses anchors to fold over scar tissue that can result from a particular type of massive heart attack affecting the left anterior descending artery which runs down the front side of the heart.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

At the Carnegie Museum of Art, a 17-foot LED screen displays what looks like a video game in progress, but there’s no one playing.

When Ian Cheng was first making animations, he found himself obsessing over miniscule details, milliseconds of animation action.

“And so I started to think about, or hallucinate, what it might be like to make art where you as an artist lose control,” said Cheng.

Dr. E. Arum, Dr. N. Jacobs / CDC via AP

The national rate of sexually transmitted diseases is at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 2016 statistics from Allegheny County reveal a similar trend.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Mallory Smith rolls her IV medication pole as she walks through the hallway at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital to get some exercise following major surgery.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico City last week, rescue teams from several countries assisted Mexico in search-and-and rescue efforts. They were joined by a 3-foot-long, 2-inch-wide reptilian robot from Carnegie Mellon University.

James Hausman / South Fayette School District

For many Americans struggling with opioid addiction, the problem starts with the abuse of a prescription.

To help tackle this issue, a group of local high school students created a new device.

Most prescriptions come in the familiar, orange canisters. Unfortunately, these are flawed: patients can take too many pills, too frequently and other people can get into the containers very easily.

The Office of Governor Tom Wolf / flickr

The Pittsburgh-based Magee-Womens Research Institute is planning to offer a $1 million prize for innovative research into women's health when it holds its inaugural summit next October at the city's David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Toby Talbot / AP

A southeastern Pennsylvania county sued 11 pharmaceutical companies Thursday for marketing tactics that county officials say misrepresent the dangers of long-term opioid usage while a national overdose crisis continues to kill tens of thousands of people annually.

Delaware County alleged in its complaint that the companies and three consulting physicians engaged in promotional campaigns that encouraged prolonged and widespread use of their powerful painkillers, despite knowing that in doing so consumers risked damaging health effects and addiction.

Banerjee Lab / University of Pittsburgh

For more than one million Americans with Type 1 Diabetes, managing the condition involves daily shots of insulin and closely watching their diets.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its first ever guidelines on minors getting tattoos and piercings, recommending teens and their parents research possible heath effects of body modification before facing the needle.

Leftover Painkillers Driving Opioid Crisis, Penn Researcher Says

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania says one of the big narratives explaining the onset of  the opioid crisis is wrong. 

Peggy Compton, a professor at Penn's School of Nursing, said the public often misunderstands the role opioid prescriptions have played in the crisis. The epidemic wasn't caused by people taking pills prescribed by their doctor to treat pain, she said. That idea, she said during a discussion among pain researchers at Penn, is a "myth."

"Simply by giving prescribed opioids to patients with pain, we are not creating addicts," Compton said Friday.

Jacob Sippel / U.S. Navy / Creative Commons

A survey of 1,000 Pennsylvania nurses has revealed many feel they're overworked and spend less time doing patient care and more time on paperwork.

The report, released by advocacy group Nurses of Pennsylvania, reveals common complaints within the profession. It found 94 percent of nurses say their place of work does not have enough nursing staff, and 87 percent believe staffing levels affecting patient care are getting worse.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The number of people without health insurance in Pennsylvania continues to decline, reaching what Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's office says is the lowest uninsured rate on record.

U.S. Census Bureau data released this week shows Pennsylvania's 2016 uninsured rate at 5.6 percent, tied for the 12th lowest rate in the nation.

That's down from 9.7 percent in 2013 and 6.4 percent in 2015. The national uninsured rate was 8.6 percent last year.

The Census Bureau estimates 700,000 Pennsylvanians lacked health insurance last year, about 500,000 fewer than in 2013.

Michigan State University

The Heinz Family Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s Heinz Awards, which honor people who are breaking barriers in their fields and making a global impact.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

The maker space TechShop Pittsburgh is scheduled to close at the end of the month, but a few members and staff are hoping to keep it alive under a new name.

Jeff White / AP

In the spacious corridor of a trendy co-working space on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Michael Shenck runs through a list of all the ways his real estate startup, Ikos, uses the internet each day.

Lotzman Katzman / Flickr

High rates of asthma in Allegheny County are keeping kids out of schools and impacting learning, according to research by a local pediatrician. Pittsburgh has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the country, one of the strongest factors for childhood asthma.

The study by Deborah Gentile reveals more than 22 percent of children in some Pittsburgh schools have asthma, much higher than the national average of just more than 10 percent. Gentile says this high rate of childhood asthma is alarming.

Hamza Butt / Flickr

Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the country, killing 250,000 Americans each year. The bacterial infection, colloquially known as "blood poisoning," can be caused by contamination in a hospital setting, and in deadly situations results in organ failure.

Sara Neff / Flickr

A successful opioid addiction program for pregnant women at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh is expanding to UPMC Hamot in Erie.

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