Science, Health & Tech

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

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

 

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware, Montgomery) said he expects that medical marijuana will be available in plant form in dispensaries next year. Leach made the comments Friday afternoon during a panel discussion at the World Medical Cannabis Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said she will investigate the county health department’s methodology for determining the cause of elevated lead levels in children.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburghers rallied in Oakland Saturday, in a satellite to the larger March for Science taking place in Washington, D.C. The city hasn’t released official crowd estimates, but organizers said thousands attended the march.

 

The local march itself was short, just seven-tenths of a mile around the block that houses the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Speeches, however, lasted more than an hour, as around a dozen scientists, academics and activists explained their work and its importance for people and the earth.

Susan Walsh / AP

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in Pittsburgh and cities around the world Saturday, as part of the March for Science.

The main march takes place in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall and coincides with Earth Day celebrations.

The organizers behind the national march say they are trying to bring attention to government “policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world.”

They’re also speaking out against proposed budget cuts for research.

University of Pittsburgh

Researchers and laboratory scientists are increasingly trying to move cells and nano-particles through smaller and smaller channels.

“You want to get fluid pumped through something that’s the width of your hair,” said Anna Balazs, University of Pittsburgh chemical and petroleum engineering professor. “So one of the challenges is first just how to pump fluid through and then how to direct particles … to a specific location.”

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Rangers and personnel at Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and forests will soon be equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would provide its officers with the medication, used to help minimize opioid-related fatalities.

 

“We’re losing over 10 people every day to this disaster,” Wolf said. “This is an epidemic that affects everybody in Pennsylvania – all across the state. Rural areas, rich and poor, men and women. It affects everybody.”

 

Marketplace/Carnegie Mellon's Biorobotics Lab

Marketplace Morning Report is wrapping up a three-week series, “Robot-Proof Jobs.” Host David Brancaccio hit the road for the stories talking to workers and experts from Pittsburgh and New Castle, Pa. to Milwaukee, Wis. The reporting also drew on the findings of The McKinsey Global Institute, which analyzed the work activities of more than 800 occupations in the U.S. to determine what percentage of a job could be automated using current technology.

Brancaccio spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs about what he learned on the road.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

After months of building and $3.8 million in construction costs, the Midwife Center in the Strip District has more than doubled its space to 11,700 square feet. Unveiled by officials on Thursday, it's now the largest freestanding birthing center in the country. 

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

More than 100 people gathered Tuesday evening at a town hall called “Not Another Flint” to discuss the water challenges confronting Pittsburgh.

“It isn’t Pittsburgh and Flint as some people are trying to make it out to be,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. “There are over 5,330 other water systems in the United States that have the same elevated lead.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Residents asked questions about the effects of lead poisoning, the cost of lead line replacement and the responsibilities of local landlords at a panel discussion about water issues Tuesday night.

Marc Levy / AP

A federal task force is walking back a 2012 recommendation that men between ages 55 and 69 not be screened for prostate cancer.

That brings federal guidelines in step with recommendations from a state task force, released last week.

Both the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Task Force now advise men to talk with their doctors about whether they should be screened.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Jennie Dorris’s four music students each stood, mallets in hand, behind a marimba, which looks a little like a xylophone. They were getting one last look at the original melody they wrote before Dorris erased it from the dry erase board and they had to play it from memory.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered that a seemingly harmless virus might be a trigger for celiac disease.

Reovirus infects most humans within the first five years of life, according to Dr. Terry Dermody, Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Jeremiah’s Place is celebrating three years of service as western Pennsylvania’s only crisis nursery this month.

Located inside the Kingsley Association in Larimer, the facility provides 24-hour care for infants and children, who can stay for a few hours or even days when their parents are unable to provide help themselves.

Cliff Owen / AP

Fentanyl deaths outranked those attributed to heroin last year for the first time in Allegheny County, according to data released Thursday by the medical examiner's office.

Coroners and medical examiners in all but one of the 10-county region reported spikes in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016 -- up 44 percent in Allegheny County and 38 percent in Westmoreland County.

The DeMoe family

"The Inheritance" is a new book by Pittsburgh-based writer Niki Kapsambelis. It tells the story of the DeMoe family from North Dakota, who carry a rare genetic mutation that guarantees they will get Alzheimer’s disease at a young age.

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps / University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

Rates of obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, breast cancer screenings and childhood poverty are all on the rise as Allegheny County fell in state rankings released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Every day, multiple times a day, Jesse Perkins runs the water in his kitchen sink for about a minute-and-a-half, until it runs cold, indicating that it’s fresh water from the main in the middle of his street. He does it before he fills up a glass of water or a pot for cooking.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Figuring out where to find something in a large warehouse or navigating a sprawling campus, like a hospital, isn’t always easy.

“You know, how do you get from the main door (of a hospital) to a certain department? You’re asking 20 people along the way and then you get frustrated,” said ARIN Technologies CEO Vivek Kulkarni. “But if there were a way to navigate, like you use Google Maps, that would make life so much easier.”

PicoCTF / CMU

What’s being billed as the largest hacking contest ever is launching Friday.

PicoCTF from Carnegie Mellon University aims to educate middle and high school students on the importance of computer security and tackle a common misconception – that hacking is bad.

“What hacking is about is understanding computers deeply and understanding how they function and how they may have bugs in them, how something may go wrong and being able to anticipate that,” said David Brumley, director of CyLab, CMU’s security and privacy institute.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Chris and Amanda Comeau said when their daughter Eleanor turned 10 months old, she hit lots of exciting milestones. She started moving around on her own a lot more, waving and gesturing and recognizing her grandparents on FaceTime.

Chris Stalnaker

A handheld device that can detect bedsores is one of the designs aiming for a $50,000 grand prize at AlphaLab Gear’s Hardware Cup next month.

 

The device was designed by a team named Rubitection, which beat out six other groups and took home a $3,000 prize at the Mid-Atlantic regional qualifier last month.

 

The start-up incubator, located in East Liberty, is hosting the innovation contest for its third year.

 

Other designs included a robotic material-sorting waste bin and an assistive video-game controller for people in wheelchairs.

 

What's The Best Way To Protect People From Lead-Tainted Drinking Water?

Mar 24, 2017
Darron Cummings / AP

The problem of lead in drinking water has been well-known for years. But the tragedy in Flint, Michigan, where lead-tainted water poisoned hundreds of children and contributed to several deaths, has catapulted the issue into the spotlight.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

About an hour east of Pittsburgh, in Indiana, Pa., inside a windowless building set far back from the road, the scientists at Environmental Service Laboratories test all kinds of things for safety and compliance with regulations, from drinking water to toys to hazardous waste.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nearly every piece of exposed metal in a consumer product has been electroplated in some way. It's the process of coating a metal with another metal to prevent corrosion. The most common coatings include chrome and cadmium, both of which are heavy metals that can be harmful to the environment.

Matt Rourke / AP

Linda Deafenbaugh’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 48. The couple lives in Ohioville, Beaver County and Deafenbaugh has been her husband’s primary care giver for the last seven years.

Now 55, he can’t be left alone and Deafenbaugh said she often feels overwhelmed. That’s why she attended one of the seven Alzheimer’s disease forums held by Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne.

“To find out what’s available, as far as resources, and also to put word out there that in the rural areas, there is nothing,” Deafenbaugh said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Carol McCullough, 76, lives in the West End neighborhood of Westwood in the home she and her husband have shared for nearly 50 years. She had her water tested for lead years ago, but when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced last summer that it had found elevated lead levels in some homes, she decided to get another test, just to be safe.

Nathanial Burton-Bradford / Flickr

The Allegheny Health Network is creating a new Cerebrovascular Center with the goal of making it easier for stroke victims to get access to treatment quickly.

Studies show that reducing the time between a stroke and treatment is one of the most important factors to a successful recovery.

Timothy K Hamilton / Flickr

Scientists have long known that there is a link between schizophrenia and rheumatoid arthritis. People who suffer from schizophrenia tend not to develop rheumatoid arthritis, and people with rheumatoid arthritis are at low risk for schizophrenia.

Though this relationship has been clear for more than 50 years, nobody really knew why the link existed, according to University of Pittsburgh professor of psychiatry and human genetics Vishwajit Nimgaonkar.

“We thought that there might be genetic factors that might explain this phenomenon,” he said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Each summer, managers of public beaches like those at Presque Isle State Park in Erie test their water to make sure it’s safe for swimming. 

Last year, the park issued more than two dozen advisories and closed beaches three times due to elevated levels of E. coli bacteria.

E.coli is a marker for dangerous water because it’s an indicator of what else could be there, such as viruses.

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