Science, Health & Tech

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

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania / Facebook

When the groundwork was laid for Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania in 1916, it was illegal to obtain or distribute any kind of contraceptive. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was starting her clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a few dozen Pittsburgh residents were also looking for ways to improve health care for women. A century later, PPWP still faces the near-constant threat of de-funding, but boasts the second-highest volunteer base in the country.

Michael Dakota / Lebanon Daily News

 

Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey has hired what's believed to be the first full-time facility dog at a children's hospital in the state.

Just 30 children's hospitals across the nation utilize facility dogs, which are different than therapy dogs in that they demonstrate various procedures for kids such as how to lay on x-ray tables and sit still during tests.

The hospital's Child Life Program will be using Kaia, a golden retriever, to help calm patients and create a more positive environment.

Fitzgerald Says Innovation Drew White House To Pittsburgh

Oct 19, 2016
Amie Downs

Imagine taking a Port Authority bus during your regular rush hour commute. Only instead of making your way along in the manner of fluid trickling from an eye dropper, your bus is traveling at a swift and steady pace thanks to a newly installed short-range communication device that shares routes with the traffic signal network.

Sung Kwon Cho

In the 1966 movie The Fantastic Voyage, a team of scientists were shrunk to microscopic proportions and sent inside the human body. Now, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are taking that idea into the 21st Century -- sort of. 

Pitt mechanical engineering associate professor Sung Kwon Cho hasn't figured out how to shrink a submarine, but he has figured out how to control the movement of a tiny device through a simulated blood stream using nothing more than an air bubble and an ultrasound machine.

If you want to gain a couple thousand Twitter followers overnight, it’s not hard.

There are hundreds of websites promising more Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, Facebook likes and even fake reviews for a product on Amazon or a business on Yelp.

These accounts, whether created by bots or real people, are called fraudsters, and social networks and other sites play a constant game of catch-up trying to identify and disable them.

Susan Walsh / AP

The National Department of Transportation announced Thursday that Pittsburgh had received an $11 million grant for advanced technology transportation projects. The announcement was made shortly before Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in a panel discussion during the White House Frontiers Conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

FinisherPix

 

For a handful of triathletes training in a pool in the suburbs of Kansas City, simply swimming laps is too easy.

Instead, they've got their legs constricted so their arms do the work of dragging their bodies through the water.

The area is an Ironman triathlon training destination for reasons that might surprise the locals. Triathlete Sarah Piampiano says she comes here because Kansas in late summer is a lot like... Hawaii.

Carnegie Mellon University

Outside Kathryn Whitehead’s office at Carnegie Mellon University is a nametag with the words “Nanoparticle Queen” written in black marker. She said a student made it for her at the Department of Chemical Engineering’s weekly happy hour, and she liked it enough to slap it on the wall.

Gene Puskar / AP

The uninsured rate in the U.S. is at a record low and studies show Pittsburgh is beating the average.

According to research from the personal finance website WalletHub, Pittsburgh ranks 8th in the nation among the 64 largest cities, with a 6.42 percent uninsured rate. That compares to a national average of 8.6 percent.

University of Pittsburgh health economist Lindsay Sabik said having health insurance doesn’t always lead to access to affordable health care.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center

 

The National Institutes of Health is awarding a $20 million grant to Penn State Health's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine.

The funds essentially aim to use scientific discoveries to make healthier communities.

The money will go towards training programs for faculty, staff and students, groundbreaking research, as well as a data system that will be able to analyze information to predict and prevent disease.

It will connect research done at 10 different schools and institutes at Penn State.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

When then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri died from amyloidosis in 1988 not much was known about the disease. Since then, research and awareness has increased and now an endowed chair is being created to further research and treatment at the University of Pittsburgh.

Amyloidosis is a systemic disease that usually attacks the heart but can impact other internal organs.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Law enforcement, public health officials and policy experts are hoping a 64-page report released Wednesday will serve as a model for the rest of the world when it comes to combating the growing opioid crisis.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

When 15-year-old Ryan Briggs’ teacher, Nicole Wadsworth, comes to his house once a week, they work on the same skill he’s been trying to master for the last decade: pulling small plastic pegs out of a foam pegboard.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A small start-up in East Liberty is working on an in-home test kit that could help predict the risk of having a heart attack.

Accel Diagnostics is placing a common blood test done in hospitals onto a device no bigger than a credit card.

Vice President of Engineering Greg Lewis said the test could measure B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or troponin, both of which are released when heart muscles are overly stressed.

Bizuayehu Tesfaye / AP for College of American Pathologists

The most common treatment for women with breast cancer is a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy. But a growing number of patients who have pacemakers or mini defibrillators are recommended by doctors to opt for a mastectomy, for fear of negatively impacting those devices.

NIAID

In developing nations, acute intestinal diseases and respiratory infections are deadly.

In the United States, the same viruses are the most likely culprit when children are hospitalized.

“So this is a huge burden on society both for the children and for the families involved," said John Williams, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. "(Especially) economically in terms of money spent caring for these illnesses, and time lost from work for parents, etcetera.” 

Retraining The Brain After Losing The Ability To Smell

Oct 2, 2016
Todd Bookman / WHYY

  In 2012, Chris Kelly caught a cold, which then moved into her sinuses. It was a run-of-the-mill nuisance, until she woke up one morning and realized her condition had become something far more serious.

"I opened my eyes, I went into the bathroom, I uncapped the toothpaste, and was immediately aware that I couldn't smell anything," says Kelly, who was born in Maine and now lives in the United Kingdom.

This wasn't a stuffy nose. This was like the on/off switch had been flipped.

Harrisburg Shares In Autonomous Vehicle Testing Excitement

Sep 30, 2016
Commonwealth Media Services

Driverless vehicle technology has made its way to the state Capitol, complete with first-time passengers.

In Pennsylvania an autonomous vehicle went on display outside Pittsburgh for the first time since testing began.

Researchers made their way to the city of Harrisburg, with Mayor Eric Papenfuse among the first people take a ride.

WITF

In a decision that is expected to reshape the health care world in the midstate, a federal court has blocked a merger between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals caps a saga that stretched more than two years, when two of the largest health systems in the region first announced their plans to unite.

This New Machine Can Recycle Plastic Ad Infinitum

Sep 29, 2016
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

 Plastic pollution is all around us. You can find it in everything from grocery bags blowing down the road to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. But new technology demonstrated at a recent green products expo in Pittsburgh is getting people to think differently about plastic’s lifecycle.

“So what we have here is a mobile plastic recycling installation,” says Dutch industrial designer Bart Bleijerveld, showing off the new gizmo. “We call it the Perpetual Plastic Project.”

US Army Corps of Engineers / flickr

The Allegheny County Health Department is attempting to cut the number of flu cases this season by offering four types of vaccines, all injection-based.

Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker said the vaccinations are all available at the department’s clinic in Oakland.

This year, it will not offer the FluMist nasal spray vaccine. Hacker said it was not as effective as other vaccines and is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Black health experts want to leverage growing awareness of racial inequality into a fight against cigarettes.

Lung cancer kills black men at higher rates than any other group nationwide, and last week a group of health experts and activists called for President Barack Obama to ban menthol cigarettes, making a direct link between health and social justice.

BarnImages.com / Flickr

An app could be key in helping track sexual assaults and domestic violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Chief of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital, said she and a team of researchers have developed an app called TIPS, or Trauma Informed Personalized Scrips, to help health care professionals identify women who are victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority this week announced changes to its protocol for testing customer water samples for lead that could cut wait time for customers in half.

Acting Chief Water Quality Officer Gina Cyprych said testing currently takes about five weeks: eight to ten business days for delivery and pickup of the testing kit and three weeks for the lab to analyze the samples. The new system should take closer to two-and-a-half weeks, but Cyprich said both time frames are “optimistic.”

Flickr user Simon

Up to a quarter of American women will experience mental illness during pregnancy or after childbirth, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, yet health care providers are not required to screen for these conditions.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

The lead acid battery, invented in the mid-1800s, has been the technology of choice when it comes to starting cars for decades. Though small advances over the years have made car batteries more reliable, lead acid batteries are still essentially the same.

Dan Burda / Studio Raw Facebook

Morgan Yoney’s hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian was dim, even though it was the middle of a sunny day in Pittsburgh. Still, the walls were covered in colorful cards sent by some of the more than 17,000 followers of “Morgan’s Army.” Morgan is currently in the hospital, waiting for a new set of lungs.

“Morgan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 9 months old,” said her mother, Tammy Yoney.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

The solar panels shading the parking lot at the new Frick Environmental Center are expected to generate about 150,000 kilowatt hours of energy each year, approximately 10,000 kilowatt hours more than the building is expected to use. The excess will go right back to the electrical grid, according to Noah Shultas with PJ Dick, the construction company that oversaw the project.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Landon DePaulo’s manniversary is Dec. 27, 2012.

That’s when he injected his first $100 shot of testosterone. It's a steep cost to look like himself, he said.

Laura Bittner / Flickr

As returning college students go to parties in new places, often with friends they’ve only recently met, they can be at higher risk for sexual assault, said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

More than half of college sexual assaults occur between August and November, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN.

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