Science, Health & Tech

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

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.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Volunteers who rescue trapped mineworkers will soon have access to technology developed in Pittsburgh using seismic vibrations as a means of communication.

It was one of the technological advancements the Mine Safety and Health Administration touted Thursday at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Research Laboratory in South Park. Mine safety executives were there to highlight developments made during the past eight years under the administration of Joe Main, assistant secretary for MSHA.

Prototype PGH

Louise Larson, 28, of Garfield has recently gotten interested in wood turning, the process of using a lathe to make something out of a block of wood. She said during a recent visit to a wood working shop to purchase some of those blocks, called blanks, she was bothered by how the cashier treated her.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

At more than three hours, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials said the informational meeting they held Wednesday in Lawrenceville was one of the longest yet.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

It's annoying when your computer or phone freezes while you are checking Facebook. The exact same glitch happening to military weapon systems software, or the code behind a self-driving car, goes from annoying to incredibly dangerous.

That's where Lawrenceville-based Edge Case Research comes in, by providing automated robustness testing.

Victoria Arocho / AP

Pennsylvania again leads the nation in reported cases of Lyme disease according to tracking conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary data released by the CDC on Thursday shows there have been 12,092 cases of the tick-borne disease reported in Pennsylvania this year through Dec. 24.

That figure is triple the amount of New York, which registered the country's second-highest total with 4,002 infections in 2016. CDC officials say more than 30,000 cases are reported each year.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania’s deer and elk farmers are optimistic about new research into chronic wasting disease. 

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a form of prion disease. 

nanoGriptech

The team at nanoGriptech is eager to talk about the company’s products, but they’re less enthusiastic about discussing how their products are made.

Jed Conklin / AP

The benefits of treating ear infections with antibiotics for 10 days far outweighs any benefit associated with reducing a child’s exposure to the medication, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“No question,” said Alejandro Hoberman, the hospital's division chief of general academic pediatrics. “Even more than what we expected. The five-day treatment did not work.”

Hank Mitchell / Flickr

As fake news stories continue to pepper social media pages, some companies are taking an active approach to banning the spread of misinformation. Facebook is focusing on the "worst of the worst" offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program seems to be performing well  in its first four months, with more than 60,000 health care professionals using the database.

The program, called PDMP for short, launched in August and includes more robust reporting requirements for doctors and pharmacists.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

No agency is independently testing or verifying the quality of Pittsburgh’s drinking water, according to an audit released Monday by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

UMVUR1972 / Wikimedia Commons

Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center called off a strike scheduled for Dec. 23 after reaching a tentative agreement with management early Tuesday morning.

The union represents more than 340 nurses and nurse anesthetists who have been working without a contract since October 2015.

Indiana Registered Nurses Association spokesperson Annie Slezickey said the two sides reached a “fair and equitable” contract after 13.5 hours of overnight bargaining.

“Last night we saw a true effort of compromise from both sides, from the hospital and from the union,” she said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

First year medical student Aneta Kowalski knocked on the door of the classroom. Upon entering, she used sanitizer to clean her hands and introduced herself to the patient, Brandi Welle. 

Kowalski and Welle sat down and began to talk. Welle said that she was in a car accident four years ago. She was suffering from hip pain and was dependent on pain killers. But she also no longer has a prescription and had been dropped by several doctors for her dependency.

“I think I have a problem,” Welle told Kowalski. “I think I need some help." 

HealthCare.gov

Pennsylvanians looking for health insurance have a new option to help them find the right coverage. HealthPlanRatings.org is a plan comparison tool created for the state by nonprofit Consumer’s Checkbook.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Even Pittsburghers who don’t know exactly what The Midwife Center is have probably noticed the mural that adorns its northeastern wall while driving through the Strip District.

Jarus Health Technologies

Public health organizations are increasingly considering how they can use technology to battle the opioid epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives in southwestern Pennsylvania in recent years.

Health care experts, students, investors and entrepreneurs will gather Thursday evening to discuss the opioid epidemic and develop collective solutions utilizing technology.

University of Pittsburgh/UPMC

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh said they have discovered a promising possible antidote for one of the most common causes of poisoning death in the United States: carbon monoxide.

“If you have a snake bite, there’s an antidote for the venom. If you have cyanide poisoning, we have antidotes,” said Mark Gladwin, chair of medicine at the Pitt School of Medicine and director of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute. “But carbon monoxide poisoning … there’s no antidote.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Could a virus offer a cure to cancer?

That’s the question researchers at Western Oncolytics, based in Harmar, are trying to answer. In fact, they’re hoping to start clinical trials in 2017.

Chief science officer Stephen Thorne said the idea that a virus could help kill cancer has been around for a century, but only since the 1990s have scientists been able to modify DNA to create a virus specifically designed to fight cancer.  

The first wave of research focused on creating a virus that could only grow inside a tumor.

Jon Olav Eikenes / Flickr

A recent study found the number of concussion diagnoses in Pennsylvania is spiking, but that’s not necessarily because they’re happening more often.

The report from Blue Cross Blue Shield found concussion diagnoses among 10 to 19-year-olds in the state jumped 85 percent between 2010 and 2015. The report doesn’t specify how the concussions were received, nor does it speculate as to why the numbers are increasing.

Looking At Addiction As A Health Crisis

Dec 3, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

For the past 20 years, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, has been a vocal advocate for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Pennsylvania. And he’s been pushing the public and lawmakers to stop looking at addiction as a crime.

“Addiction has to be looked at like a disease and it is, like other diseases, highly treatable, and treatment works,” he said.

Rodrigo Olivera / flickr

Posing with a new gun, from the top of a tall building or on a seaside cliff are just some of the ways more than 127 people died taking selfies between 2014 and 2016.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi, India found that number in a study of selfie-related deaths. The team is now using the data to help prevent future casualties-by-selfie.

Aaron Warnick / PublicSource

 

What was supposed to be a routine visit to the pediatrician with little Oren resulted in a finding that sent Katy Rank Lev and her husband, Corey, into a frenzy.

Their 1-year-old had lead in his blood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

As the opioid epidemic continues, an unlikely service is offering support to those battling addiction: the Pittsburgh Poison Center.

Medical Director Michael Lynch said center’s new effort to combat opioid overdoses and addiction aligns with its mission to reduce poisonings through treatment advice, advocacy and education.

Anyone in western Pennsylvania battling opioids, or their loved ones, can call the Mr. Yuk line, or 1-800-222-1222, for help.

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