Science, Health & Tech

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

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In addition to bringing a baby into the world, many of The Midwife Center’s birth stories share a common anecdote – one of the mother-to-be going in and out of the building while their partner or family member searches for parking. 

Keepingtime_CA / flickr

Watson, the computer known for beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, is now branching into health care.

Last month, IBM Watson Health partnered with UPMC to launch a new company called Pensiamo, with the goal of saving health care providers money by better utilizing supplies and services.

“The concept of Pensiamo was to provide some cognitive analytics or some artificial intelligence to help hospitals and health system better utilize the products that the patients need,” said Pensiamo Executive Vice President of Cognitive Solutions Mary Beth Lang.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A small group of activists delivered five cardboard boxes containing what they said were the signatures of more than 700,000 “outraged citizens” to Mylan Pharmaceuticals Tuesday morning.

Flickr user Peter Lynch

Pennsylvania is still more than a year away from having its medical marijuana system up and running, but local physicians are already thinking about how they will prescribe the drug.

walkatop.com

A hike through Mt. Washington’s Emerald View Park next month aims to shed light on the resources available to those suffering from depression or mental illness.

It’s part of the WALKATOP charity hiking event on Sept. 11. Coordinators plan to raise funds for mental health programming and staffing at UPMC, as well as offer support, information and referrals to anyone seeking help.

Pennsylvania Internet News Service

 

Pennsylvania has officially joined nearly every other state in the U.S. by setting up a program to track prescriptions of powerful drugs like oxycodone and methadone.

It's considered a big step forward to address the addiction crisis.

Doctors, physician assistants and other prescribers can now check the database to see when a patient last received the drugs.

Michael Righl / Flickr

 

Faculty and staff members at the University of Pittsburgh now receive transgender benefits, including behavioral health support, medications and surgery.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports officials say the change, which was sent to employees last week, is meant to bring the university into compliance with federal rules on sex discrimination in employment.

St. Clair Hospital

 

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is known for employing doctors with highly refined subspecialties, and now St. Clair Hospital doctors can tap into that expertise.

An agreement between the two hospitals, finalized this week, will allow St. Clair doctors to access eTumor Boards – a virtual version of tumor board reviews, in which multiple doctors brainstorm ways to treat an individual patient.

National Human Genome Research Institute / genome.gov

At the most basic level cancer can be defined as the DNA of a normal cell going haywire. 

hipponotized / Flickr

Five years ago, Dr. Lisa Pan had a patient whose depression was so severe that no form of treatment would take away his suicidal thoughts.

Michael Ward / University of Pittsburgh

Researchers are a step closer to figuring out how our brains turn those squiggly lines on papers and screens into words.

A team of cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have completed a landmark study looking into how the human brain recognizes and processes written words – or, more simply, reads.

“We really don’t really think about it when we’re reading a word, but all you’re really seeing are black and white lines and you turn that into a story, a sentence, a word, something with real meaning,” said Avniel Ghuman, one of the lead researchers.

Pittsburgh Earning Reputation As Cyber Security Hub

Aug 16, 2016
ForAllSecure

  

A recent Carnegie Mellon University win at a hacking competition in Las Vegas is helping put Pittsburgh on the map as a cyber security hub.

CMU startup ForAllSecure earned $2 million earlier this month at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Cyber Grand Challenge, with an autonomous computer that can find security weaknesses and defend against malware, CEO David Brumley said.  

National Cancer Institute

 

new study finds a link between the racial makeup of Philadelphia neighborhoods and the number of primary care doctors who work there.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Christiana Care Health System, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and the French Institute for Agricultural Research, measures primary care doctors per resident in Philadelphia's census tracts.

Courtesy UPMC

More than 400 people died from drug overdoses in Allegheny County last year. According to the Health Department, many of them were due to opioids, specifically heroin.

As public health officials continue to battle the opioid epidemic, health care professionals are looking for new ways to help patients transition from drug addiction to recovery.

Nati Harnik / AP

 

Noelle, who is in labor at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, tells a nurse that she isn't feeling right. Then her water breaks. The nurse checks the monitors and realizes that the umbilical cord has prolapsed. This is an obstetrical emergency.

Noelle has had this emergency — and others — thousands of times in the past three years that she has been in the simulation lab at Conemaugh. Noelle Birthing Simulator, made by Gaumard Scientific Co., Florida, is a full-size mannequin used to help nurses, residents and physicians practice real-life emergencies.

Flickr user hjl

  Over-prescribing painkillers, marketing and formulation changes and cheap heroin prices led to opioid epidemics in Carrick, Sharpsburg and Allentown, according to a report released Thursday by the Allegheny County departments of Health and Human Services.

The new findings were collected over six years to better define strategies for both prevention and treatment within targeted geographic areas, Health Department Director Karen Hacker said.

Flickr user Ecig Click

The Allegheny County Health Department is seeking public input on a proposed rule that would ban e-cigarettes and vaping from many indoor spaces. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.

The ban would apply to places where smoking is also currently prohibited under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

New Research Puts The Spotlight On The Humble, Understudied Moth

Aug 11, 2016
Anita Gould / Flickr

 

Chatham University ecology professor Ryan Utz says a new moon—when the night sky is at its darkest—is a great time to observe moths in the summertime. And it doesn’t take any special technology to get a look at the diversity the moth world has to offer either.

Utz and his students recently set up a four-by-eight-foot white board at the edge of a field and then simply lit it on a dark night to attract some of the 1,500 species of moths that might pay a visit.

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The healthy human gut is home to hundreds of millions of bacteria species.

But people who are missing a few hundred or so particular species are at greater risk for certain health issues, including Crohn’s disease, which is characterized  by chronic inflammation of the bowels. 

Richard Duerr, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is co-senior author of a study linking that lack of gut diversity with a specific genetic variation.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Voice-activated technologies, like the Amazon Echo speaker, are gaining popularity with people of all abilities.

But Pittsburgh-based Conversant Labs has developed an app that’s aimed at benefiting people with visual impairments. It’s called Yes, Chef! and uses voice commands to lead users through recipes.

“So, your hands are dirty they have like raw chicken, raw meat, you don’t want to have to wash your hands every time to either touch your phone and get food on your phone or on your lap top,” said founder Chris Maury.

NASA

The Perseid meteor shower is back for its annual mid-summer show, but with more force this year.

Stargazers can catch a glimpse of 100 to 150 meteors – remnants of the Swift Tuttle comet – flying by Earth every hour when celestial activity peaks between late Thursday evening and early Friday. The annual pass usually takes place each year from mid-July to mid-August. 

“All of these little particles of rock burn up in our atmosphere and put on a pretty spectacular show,” said Charissa Sedor, planetarium producer of the Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The needle is in and out in a second. I let my breath return to its normal pace, and I’m given a Tweety Bird bandage as a reward for my maturity.

Marisa Acevedo / 90.5 WESA

Twenty Centers of Excellence, which will treat Pennsylvanians struggling with addiction, will open by Oct. 1.

This would help the roughly 4,500 people across Pennsylvania suffering from opioid use disorders who do not have access to treatment.

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force has hired a director to lead its new medical clinic in East Liberty.

According to task force officials, Dr. Sarah McBeth is an internal medicine specialist who received some of her clinical training in the midst of the HIV epidemic in Africa.

In a statement, McBeth said seeing the AIDS epidemic firsthand in Beira, Mozambique convinced her that HIV is one of the world’s most pressing health issues.

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.”

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