Science, Health & Tech

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

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Many recipes for holiday treats have been passed down through the generations, in dog-eared cookbooks or on tattered, chocolate-stained scraps of paper. But the Gluten Free Goat Bakery in Garfield is using the power of artificial intelligence, developed by Google, to add a little more spice to a holiday snack. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

At least 49 genes contribute to whether one’s earlobes are attached or detached.

That's what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found in a new study. Lead author John R. Shaffer says this work could help shed light on serious genetic syndromes.

"Some of these conditions, like an example is Mowat-Wilson syndrome, the ear involves earlobe malformations," said Shaffer. "In the same genes that affect normal variation in the morphology, when they're disrupted, they lead to genetic syndromes."

PA Sets New Guidelines In Prescribing Opioids To Kids

Dec 4, 2017
Emma Lee/WHYY

Pennsylvania’s top health official visited the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Friday to introduce new guidelines for prescribing painkillers to kids. It’s one of the state’s most recent efforts to address the growing opioid epidemic.

Carla K. Johnson / AP

 

A series of community discussions and an interactive website featuring the stories of the opioid crisis will launch in Pennsylvania next year as part of a campaign to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On a Tuesday night, the first floor of the Cathedral of Learning is brimming with students, their conversations bouncing off the high, arched ceilings. They sit on the ground, in more than a dozen small circles; at the center of each circle is a dog. 

Oliver, a golden retriever, lays on his side as he's pet by five or six people at once. Despite all the attention, Oliver is calm and quiet. That's because he, like every other dog here, is a therapy dog from the College Canines program at Humane Animal Rescue

Tim Kelly / Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering

A Ph.D. student in Pittsburgh is working to develop a more effective drug delivery method for patients with lung diseases.

PA Hotline Links Those In Need With Help To Confront Opioid Addiction

Nov 28, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

One of the most frequent complaints that Jennifer Smith, acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, hears from family and friends concerned about loved ones’ opioid abuse is that they don’t know how to access treatment.

“I heard over and over and over again … my child needs treatment, but I have no idea how to get him or her there. I don’t know who to call,’” said Smith last month at a hearing on the state of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

UW Health/Flickr

When a parent has health insurance through Medicaid, their child is 29 percent more likely to receive an annual physical exam.

That’s according to a new study designed by a University of Pittsburgh Public Health researcher Eric T. Roberts, who calls this correlation between pediatric care and parental health insurance a "spill-over effect."

Tony Talbot / AP

The death rate in Pennsylvania from drugs, alcohol and suicide could increase 46 percent over the next decade. That’s according to a new report released by Well Being Trust, a national foundation that aims to improve mental health. 

“We’re turning to more lethal means to address our pain,” said Well Being Trust chief policy officer Benjamin Miller. He said nationwide those deaths could jump by 60 percent over the next 10 years if current trends continue.

HIPPONOTIZED / Flickr

For people with anxiety or depression, an online therapy can be similarly effective to seeing a mental health professional, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The cognitive behavioral therapy program (CBT), called "Beating the Blues," consists of eight one-hour video sessions that teach patients to overcome negative thoughts.

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.

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