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

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.

Laurl Valn / Flickr

In a sparsely decorated office in Braddock, two men are trying to build a parking payment empire and it all started with a lunchtime conversation.

“One of our colleagues, she opened up her purse to help chip in and instead of pulling out money she pulled out a fist full of parking tickets,” said MeterFeeder co-founder and CEO Jim Gibbs. “She looked at us with desperation in her eyes and said, ‘If you make an app where I can pay for parking I would use it every day.’ And two weeks later MeterFeeder was born.”

NASA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working on technology that could help make a human mission to Mars possible.

Flickr user Yale Rosen

Bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease have been found in two water tanks at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.

Staff Sgt. Regina Machine / U.S. Army

Earlier this week in Westmoreland County, the Hempfield Township’s zoning hearing board decided to allow a teenage girl to keep her four pet therapy chickens despite initial neighbor complaints.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

In an open layout room filled with natural light, Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute PhD students Yang Zhang and Gierad Laput fiddle with wires and switch on levers. The tables in front of them are covered in interfaces, sensors and tools, and several nearby glass walls display multi-colored formulas and troubleshooting lists. This, Laput says, is the Future Interfaces Group research lab.

Akira Ohgaki / flickr

When it comes to treating a stroke, experts say time loss equals brain loss. Matthew Kesinger, founder and CEO of Forest Devices Inc., developed a device entering clinical trials that aims to decrease time loss by diagnosing strokes faster and more accurately.

Luyen Chou / Flickr

  

Jeff Blood has been fishing for more than 50 years. He’s cast his line for steelhead in Lake Erie, trout in State College and mined waters as far away as Alaska, Europe, South America and Central America.

“I have lots and lots of memories,” Blood said.

He's one of more than 800,000 licensed fishermen and women in Pennsylvania, according to Angler Labs founder Nic Wilson. It’s a growing sport, Wilson said -- one he loves. And it's that passion that inspired Wilson to create a soon-to-launch data tracking app for fishing enthusiasts.

Courtesy Maker Faire Pittsburgh

Maker Faire Pittsburgh is now accepting applications from artists, scientists, inventors and tinkerers who want to showcase their work at this year’s event.

“Maker Faire is the greatest show-and-tell on earth,” said lead organizer Kayce Dewey. “It’s a combination between craft fair meets science fair meets Burning Man.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration / Flickr

Advances in 3-D printing are making prosthetic limbs more affordable and easier to acquire.

A global community called e-Nabling the Future is making low-cost prosthetic hands across the world. A traditional prosthetic limb can cost a person thousands of dollars, but the hands produced by e-Nabling, are free.

Rev. Xanatos / Flickr

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh said they have made a major discovery that could lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists have long known that people whose brains make too much of a protein called alpha-synuclein end up getting Parkinson’s, but they didn’t know why that particular protein was toxic to brain tissue.

Flickr user Hitthatswitch

A lab worker at the University of Pittsburgh has contracted the Zika virus by accidentally sticking herself with a needle.

The Allegheny County Health Department reported the county’s fourth case Thursday.

According to a Pitt spokesman, the accident occurred on May 23. The worker developed symptoms by June 1 and returned to work on June 6.

In a statement, ACHD director Karen Hacker said, “there is still no current risk of contracting Zika from mosquitos in Allegheny County.”

Jamie / Flickr

Pennsylvania has used a prescription drug monitoring program and database since 1972 and it’s due for an upgrade.

“Although it was a prescription monitoring system, it was woefully inadequate,” said Michael Zemaitis, a University of Pittsburgh pharmaceutical science professor.

Takashi Toyooka / Flickr

Reviewing a lengthy legal document can be a long and tedious task.

“Imagine looking at a computer screen for eight hours a day reading legal terms and trying to find the needle in the haystack,” said Alan Veeck, vice president of Denali Group, a Pittsburgh-based procurement service. “Doing that for eight hours makes your eyes bleed.”

LegalSifter, based in Lawrenceville, is offering an alternative. The program ContractSifter uses algorithms to extract certain terms and phrases from thick, wordy, legal documents, said CEO Kevin Miller.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Nancy Furbee, of Wexford, has her smartphone loaded with apps, like many people. But she has strategically placed two health related apps right where her thumb hovers each time she unlocks her iPhone.

“Because it really keeps me focused," she said. "And every time I look at my phone, they’re a little smack in the face to remind me to not eat too many things and to really keep honest with my fitness goals."

Furbee said her friends greatly impact her app choices.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Updated: 12:45 p.m. May 6, 2016. 

One of the Phipps Conservatory’s most popular and pungent flowers is gearing up to bloom again this year.

Lack Of Summer Donations Leaves Blood Banks Dry

Jun 6, 2016
Charleston's TheDigitel / Flickr

Most people are focused on outdoor activities or travel in the summer, but not usually donating blood.

“(They) sometimes tend to forget that people need blood to survive,” said Central Blood Bank spokeswoman Megan Lakatos. “Summer gets in the way.”

Though fewer people think to donate blood during the warmer months, demand for blood transfusions stays constant, she said. To combat the issue, blood banks are launching campaigns focused on rewarding blood donors who make appointments during the summer.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Patients of all stripes leaned back in rows of dental chairs on the main floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center early Friday for free procedures ranging from walk-in cleanings to root canals and extractions.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 FM WESA

A locally made app called Seekahoo connects electrical, plumbing and other contractors with customers. The concept may sound like the well-known site Angie’s List, but Seekahoo's creators said they designed their platform with contractors in mind.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

The cicadas are back after 17 years underground, and cicada mania is in full swing.

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