Science, Health & Tech

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

Hao Sun / University of Pittsburgh

A University of Pittsburgh researcher's work detecting the "health" of buildings has landed him a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 List in science.

Hao Sun, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt, has developed a method that could help detect structural problems in buildings after a damaging event such as an earthquake or a hurricane.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh-area robotics and 3-D printing companies displayed their designs as part of a preview of the Hazelwood Green’s Mill 19 facility.

The former steel mill will soon be the home to the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, a public-private partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, community stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Defense.

As women go through menopause they may express greater interest in trying new ways of being intimate with their partners as a way to adapt to changes in sexual function.

That's according to a new UPMC study, published online this month in the journal Menopause, which looked at 39 women ages 45 to 60, most of whom were heterosexual. During hour-long interviews with researchers, the women answered questions including, "How do you define satisfying sex?" or "What does 'sex' mean to you?"

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Twelve Pennsylvania medical marijuana growers and processors were licensed by the state in June. Since then, two have been approved to start production -- Cresco Yeltrah in Jefferson County and Standard Farms in Luzerne County.

 

The three other growers and processors, all in western Pennsylvania, still have work to do before the state’s December 20 approval deadline.

 

AGRiMED Industries in Greene County is still setting up its facility and hiring staff, said COO Matt Levine.

 

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Supercomputers are pretty much what they sound like: bigger, faster and more sophisticated than any Mac or PC. 

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

New research from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC credits a computer program with detecting sudden kidney failure in hospitalized patients.

 

Acute kidney injury affects one in eight hospitalized patients in the U.S., according to UPMC. About 2 million people in the world die of the condition each year, and because it’s often asymptomatic, it can be undetected until problems arise.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Since the late 1800s, steamfitters have built, installed and maintained piping systems, everywhere from power plants to residential homes.

M. Spencer Green / AP

Pennsylvania was one of only four states that saw a decrease in premature birth rates last year compared to 2015, according the March of Dimes’ annual Premature Birth Report Card.

Last year 9.3 percent of babies in Pennsylvania were born before 37 weeks gestation. In 2015 the rate was 9.4 percent. Nationally the rate increased from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

Ryan Kang / AP

More than 3,800 patients have registered for Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program in its first week.

Governor Tom Wolf says more than 200 caregivers have also registered for the program. He says the demand shows the "need for this vital medication."

A 2016 state law gives people under a doctor's care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

The law permits pills, oils, vapor or liquid marijuana, but not marijuana in plant form.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh hospital is opening a unit for that will allow new mothers to stay with their opioid-addicted infants.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital says the unit will initially consist of six rooms.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Nov. 8, 2017 at 1:09 p.m.

About 100,000 water customers in western Pennsylvania have been told that they no longer need to boil their water due to possible contamination.

Pennsylvania American Water said Wednesday that "acceptable test results" were obtained from samples collected Monday and Tuesday.

The company said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had authorized lifting of the advisory.

UPMC

*UPDATED Nov. 3, 2017 at 5:44 p.m.

Pennsylvania’s largest hospital system has announced a $2 billion project to build three “digital hospitals of the future” in Pittsburgh, in partnership with Microsoft. The new UPMC facilities will focus on cancer, vision and rehabilitation, and the heart and transplants.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says more than 1,000 people signed up for the state's new medical marijuana program on its first day.

A health department spokesman tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the registrations include patients and caregivers.

The department announced Wednesday that it was accepting applications to participate in the system.

A 2016 state law gives people under a doctor's care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

Toby Talbot / AP

President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. It’s still unclear how much funding, if any, is tied to that declaration, but whatever resources are marshaled will likely fund work done by people most commonly thought of as fighting on the front lines of the epidemic, like social workers, addiction counselors and physicians.

Pennsylvania Starts Signing Up Medical Marijuana Patients

Nov 1, 2017
David Goldman / AP

Pennsylvanians are closer to being able to get marijuana to help treat their medical conditions as the state is launching its patient and caregiver registry.

The Health Department announced Wednesday that a pilot program was successful and the agency is accepting applications to participate in the system. It's expected to be up and running within six months.

Icelandair via AP Images

Pittsburghers are used to seeing Uber’s self-driving cars on local streets, and one Bloomfield-based startup is partnering with aerospace giant Boeing to bring similar technology into the air.

Passenger jets can already guide themselves through a planned trajectory in the air, but it's limited. They can't make their own decisions along the way or land themselves.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A Pittsburgh hospital's registered nurses have approved a new, three-year contract.

The union says the contract agreed on Monday night raises hiring rates for nurses at Allegheny General Hospital, provides longevity increases for experienced nurses and improves nurse-to-patient ratios

Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania represents 1,300 nurses at the hospital.

No details of the deal were released, which replaces a one-year agreement that expired Oct. 13.

The nurses remained on the job as negotiations continued.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Wednesday is the first day of the open enrollment period for Americans to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for 2018.

About 40,000 Allegheny County residents were enrolled in marketplace plans through the exchanges last year, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

“It has been a tremendous benefit,” said Fitzgerald. “Not just for their physical health and their health security, but also on their financial security, families and where they live.”

Andrew Harnik / AP

The window to sign up for individual health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace begins Wednesday, Nov. 1, amid fewer federal resources to help people sign up and increased confusion over the law itself. 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Courtney Bittner is mom to 3-year-old Bentley, and 3-week-old Nash.

Haven Daley / AP

The implementation of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was the focus of a session Tuesday during the annual conference of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association.

The meeting raised more questions than answers regarding the commonwealth’s recent legalization of medical pot.

Questions included:

Who reviews the medical marijuana applications?

What will happen to growers who aren’t up and running in six months?

Will businesses be able to get financial backing from banks?

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

An innovative new treatment for an aggressive form of blood cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The strain of lymphoma, targeted by the cell-based therapy, has a patient survival rate of about 40 percent, according to UPMC physician Mounzer Agha, director of the Mario Lemiuex Center for Blood Cancers at Hillman Cancer Center. He was involved in the new drug's clinical trails.

Fred Vuich / AP

Concussions and head-related trauma have become a major concern for football players, from the National Football League to pee-wee games.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Nearly half of children in Pennsylvania had at least one adverse childhood experience, or ACE, according to a a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 

More than one in five had at least two adverse experiences.

 

Eric Risberg / AP

A Senate committee has moved a bill to reauthorize Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program—or CHIP.

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.

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