Science, Health & Tech

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

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County needs more resources to battle the opioid epidemic gripping southwestern Pennsylvania, Human Services and Health department representatives said at a state legislative hearing Tuesday.

HealthCare.gov

Open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins in a few months. And for many, navigating the provider exchange can be a daunting task.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

It’s no secret that razors are expensive.

But a Pittsburgh engineer thinks he’s perfected the formula for the perfect shave – that’s also cheap. His company, Leaf Shave, creates razors that don’t use cartridges and use half of a standard double-edge blade. Though the razors are expected to sell for $79, the refill blades sell for as little as $.10 apiece. 

CEO and Founder Adam Hahn said he was inspired by his own troubles shaving.

Carnegie Mellon University

The phrase “mental math” has a whole new meaning.

Patterns in brain activity are giving Carnegie Mellon University  researchers a glimpse at the stages of thinking involved in solving complex mathematics.

“It’s hard to know what people are thinking while they’re solving problems. We decided to explore how brain imaging data might provide a window to gain insight on the internal stages of problem solving,” said Aryn Pyke, psychology research fellow at CMU and study author.

No Nodding Off With This Headset For Truck Drivers

Jul 26, 2016
Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

Spending hours on the highway can often leave truck drivers drowsy.

“I hate to say it, but unless you’re on the phone or something, a lot of drivers do what I do – you just kind of zone out,” said Tara Krate, a truck driver with more than a decade of experience.

Krate drives about 500 miles round-trip on her daily route and said it’s easy to sometimes lose focus.

But new technology could use those sleepy head bobs to make the industry a little safer.

~My aim is true~ / flickr

A coalition of housing and health advocacy groups from across Pennsylvania want Medicaid expanded to include supportive housing services. 

“Even with bricks and mortar dollars and housing subsidies, it’s the supportive services dollars that we are often really struggling with how to find and how to sustain,” said Monica McCurdy of Project HOME in Philadelphia. “We see Medicaid as the missing piece in this equation to solve homelessness.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Roughly 300 registered nurses at Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver began a 24-hour picket Tuesday morning, demanding better working conditions and benefits.

Registered Nurse Molly Romigh, president of the hospital’s local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, said nurses are dissatisfied with the RN-to-patient ratios maintained by their employer.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

So, you had a baby a couple of years ago, and you go to a store’s app to search for a toy for your now-toddler. And whaddayaknow, there's a sale on the perfect treat.

That could become more common as artificial intelligence continues to creep into our mobile shopping experiences.

One Pittsburgh company, CognistX, is at the forefront of that movement. Its mobile app enhancements let retailers use advanced information about a person’s lifestyle and spending habits to target specific content toward shoppers.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Perched in the shadow of the Homestead Grays Bridge, Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Tom Higgs flicked his index finger up and down a cracked Android screen.

Flex Robotics System

Developed here in the Steel City, the Flex Robotic System could be a game changer when it comes to surgeries. We’ll discover the impact it could have on patients, hospital systems and more with James Jordan, vice president and chief investment officer at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Cancer centers across the U.S. have more than tripled the amount spent on advertising in the last decade, but a new report finds that doesn't equate to better care.

The report by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University, published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week, found that between 2005 and 2014, 890 for-profit and nonprofit cancer centers increased their total advertising expenditures from $54 million to $173 million. 

Pennsylvania Drug Report Shows Rise In Overdoses

Jul 13, 2016
Drug Enforcement Administration

Nearly 3,400 people died from a drug overdose in Pennsylvania last year, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report.

It’s a startling increase for a crisis that was already reaching historic highs.

Drug-related deaths in the state rose by nearly 24 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the findings.

College of Engineering / Carnegie Mellon University

It’s no bigger than a smartphone, but it could have a big impact on one of the world’s most deadly parasites.

Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Blue Martin is developing a device that she said will sort malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy red blood cells.

“Malaria, when it infects a red blood cell, eats the hemoglobin and spits out an iron crystal, which makes the cell magnetic, before the malaria splits it open and moves on,” Martin said.

Kathy Swendiman / flickr

Over half a million veterans are currently facing wait times of more than 30 days to receive care from the VA system. In one attempt to address the problem, the Department of Veterans Affairs has suggested allowing nurse practitioners to treat patients throughout the system.

HAS Haiti / Facebook

For the past 60 years, Hopital Albert Schweitzer has provided medical care to some of Haiti’s most vulnerable. The facility started under the leadership of the late Dr. Larry Mellon of the Pittsburgh philanthropic family, and his wife, Gwen. Since their inception 60 years ago, they’ve sent some of the best medical experts to Haiti to deal with everything from natural disasters to global health epidemics. We’ll hear about what the hospital is focusing on now and how they’ve evolved over the past 60 years from HAS volunteer Loroushima Ostin and  Jayson Samuels, Major Gifts Officer for HAS..

Toby Talbot / AP

A new report praises Pennsylvania doctors for their use of opioid-based pain treatments for chronic illnesses, especially cancer.

The report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network comes at time, though, when many legislators and organizations are working to fight opioid addiction.

NASA / JPL/Caltech

NASA’s Juno spacecraft began orbiting Jupiter on Monday, becoming the first to reach the Solar System’s largest planet since Galileo in 2003. The craft plans to study Jupiter’s evolution and composition, but what are officials hoping will come from the mission? We’ll ask Brendan Mullan, Point Park University astrophysicist.

Wellbridge

In a small office at the base of the Birmingham Bridge on Pittsburgh’s South Side, social workers and app developers are coming together to help vulnerable medical patients.

Flickr/Nate Steiner

Throat cancer survivor Larry VanDyke drinks kale protein every day. He's been in recovery since August of 2014 when he endured seven weeks of radiation and three rounds of chemotherapy.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Arsenal Cider House’s new production facility in Penn Hills is still under construction, with nothing produced yet inside the 17,000-square-foot warehouse. But outside, 110,000 workers are toiling away to create something that will one day end up inside Arsenal’s signature “daily rations” growlers.

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

For 25 years, Alan Jones has been working with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. He’s seen the days when the disease was essentially a death sentence to recent discoveries of preventative medicines and increased awareness. Alan has watched how HIV/AIDS impacts Pittsburgh and joins us to talk about his experience and share stories from his career.

Flickr user Shaine Hatch

The state of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh announced a new partnership aimed at helping stem the tide of opioid addiction, county by county.

“It doesn’t matter where you go in the commonwealth, in southwestern PA, in urban PA, rural Pennsylvania and suburban Pennsylvania. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what zip code you come from, too many lives are being taken by heroin and opioids,” said Josh Shapiro, head of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which is funding the new center.

For a lot of us, the hospital's emergency room is a stressful place.

Not so for Glenn Baker.

When Baker, 44, steps into the emergency room at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, he's completely comfortable.

He has a favorite double-wide chair in the corner, knows where to find the Cheetos in the vending machine, and the staff is like family.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The Fab Lab at the Carnegie Science Center is using its 3-D printer to make prosthetic hands. The “e-Nable the Future” program allowed visitors to take part in a workshop utilizing this technology. Essential Pittsburgh producer Marcus Charleston attended the workshop.

The Remake Learning series is a collaboration of 90.5 WESA, WQED, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Facebook says it's changing its news feed, again. It says posts from friends and family will now come first, prioritized over posts from publishers and celebrities.

It's potentially worrisome news for media companies, whose traffic is heavily boosted by Facebook-driven clicks. But it's also only a small, vague peek into the black box that is Facebook's algorithm, which determines what version of the world is presented to the 1.65 billion people using the social network.

Uber / uber.com

Imagine it’s the future and you’re riding down the road in your autonomous vehicle when suddenly it starts to downpour. Your vehicle wakes you up, says they don’t feel comfortable driving in the conditions and hand you the wheel. That responsible robotic action is one of the thoughts behind a recent workshop that examined how engineers can create safe and controlled artificial intelligence technologies. William Scherlis, director of the Institute for Software Research in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science joins us to talk about the concept and the dialogue at the workshop.

'The Aleppo Evil' Is Making A Comeback

Jun 29, 2016

When the first cases were reported in Syria 275 years ago, it was called "the Aleppo boil" or "the Aleppo evil." And for good reason: The parasitic illness spread by sand flies causes nasty skin lesions that leave victims scarred for life physically and can leave emotional scars as well.

Virtual Reality Aimed At The Elderly Finds New Fans

Jun 29, 2016

Virginia Anderlini is 103 years old, and she is about to take her sixth trip into virtual reality.

In real life, she is sitting on the sofa in the bay window of her San Francisco assisted-living facility. Next to her, Dr. Sonya Kim gently tugs the straps that anchor the headset over Anderlini's eyes.

Flickr user TheKarenD

Black Americans with the heart condition atrial fibrillation are nearly twice as likely to suffer stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease as their white counterparts, according to a new study from University of Pittsburgh professor Jared Magnani.

The finding is based on data from a 30-year study of more than 15,000 people in four communities: Forsyth County, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; suburbs northwest of Minneapolis, Minn. and Washington County, Md.

VCU CNS / Flickr

The Allegheny County Health Department will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening regarding a potential HPV vaccine mandate for pre-teens.

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