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

The maker space TechShop Pittsburgh is scheduled to close at the end of the month, but a few members and staff are hoping to keep it alive under a new name.

Jeff White / AP

UPDATE: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to loosen Obama-era internet regulations and roll back net neutrality rules

This story was originally published  Sept. 11, 2017. 

In the spacious corridor of a trendy co-working space on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Michael Shenck runs through a list of all the ways his real estate startup, Ikos, uses the internet each day.

Lotzman Katzman / Flickr

High rates of asthma in Allegheny County are keeping kids out of schools and impacting learning, according to research by a local pediatrician. Pittsburgh has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the country, one of the strongest factors for childhood asthma.

The study by Deborah Gentile reveals more than 22 percent of children in some Pittsburgh schools have asthma, much higher than the national average of just more than 10 percent. Gentile says this high rate of childhood asthma is alarming.

Hamza Butt / Flickr

Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the country, killing 250,000 Americans each year. The bacterial infection, colloquially known as "blood poisoning," can be caused by contamination in a hospital setting, and in deadly situations results in organ failure.

Sara Neff / Flickr

A successful opioid addiction program for pregnant women at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh is expanding to UPMC Hamot in Erie.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

People living with HIV are living longer lives, thanks to medical advancements and wider availability of antiretroviral drugs. This means age-related diseases are now manifesting in these patients with previously unknown effects.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Ivona Pandrea said people living with HIV are twice as likely to develop heart disease, due to a protein that triggers blood clotting and inflammation even after the HIV is treated.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Back to school clothes shopping is a rite of passage for most students, but it can be tough for kids with developmental disabilities. The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and American Eagle Outfitters are working on a potential solution that would let students with special needs shop remotely.

New Report Recommends Ways To Prevent And Respond To Childhood Lead Exposure

Sep 5, 2017
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The water and lead crisis in Flint Michigan and parts of Pennsylvania has shone a national spotlight on he problem of childhood lead exposure.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Residents of Millvale are no longer under a flush and boil water advisory. Officials with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced Sunday night that the Department of Environmental Protection had approved lifting the advisory.

Tony Talbot / AP

One of the root causes of opioid addiction is over-prescription of addictive drugs.

A major reason it occurs is the practice of doctor shopping — when people visit five or more prescribers in hopes of getting drugs. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A Department of Health report out this week has shown that only 28 percent of Pennsylvania children undergo recommended lead testing.

Colt Group / Flicker

 

In mid-September, the Pittsburgh Technology Council will take a delegation of Pittsburghers across the Atlantic to Bilbao, Spain for a five-day trip. The goal of the visit is to take a leaf out of our Spanish sister-city’s book.

Brian Kennedy, senior vice president for government relations and operations at the council, stressed that if Pittsburgh wants to keep bringing in talent to fill high-tech jobs, the city needs to be a place that’s both exciting to live in and easy to get around in.

 

Bigstock / via WHYY

Teenagers are often thought of as irresponsible — or even reckless. But a group of local researchers recently came to a different conclusion about what's going on in the teenage brain.

Stereotypes about young people and their brains abound, and scientists have not been immune to those ideas, said Dan Romer, research director at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

First, it was raging hormones that explained those wacky teens. Then, Romer said, it was the fact that the prefrontal cortex doesn't fully develop until adulthood.

Volmar Beche / flickr

An elderly woman in Pittsburgh’s East End has contracted West Nile Virus, the first reported case in Allegheny County since 2015.

Allegheny County Health Department officials said, while the disease can’t be spread through human contact, infected mosquito activity is higher this summer than in the previous six years.

Ryan Melaugh / Flickr

A new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this month shows the suicide rate among females aged 15 to 19 hit a 40-year high in 2015.

The new data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics finds suicide rates doubled for females and rose by more than 30 percent for boys in the same age group between 2007 and 2015. 

Bill Sikes / AP

Two legal organizations say health insurer Aetna revealed the HIV status of patients in several states by mailing envelopes with a large, clear window that showed information on purchasing HIV prescriptions.

The Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania say some patients' relatives and neighbors learned of their HIV status as a result.

Aetna says that "this type of mistake is unacceptable" and that the company is reviewing processes to ensure it never happens again.

frankieleon / Flickr

A new University of Pittsburgh-led study reveals Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees prescribed an opioid are still highly likely to continue that prescription after an overdose from a legal opioid or heroin. 

Carnegie Mellon University / YouTube

 

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are using the centuries-old concept of a telescope to develop new structures that could increase robots' flexibility and versatility in the future.

 

A telescoping structure is made of nested pieces which slide in and out of one another to different lengths. A classic, if outdated, example would be a pirate or sailor’s retractable telescope. Today, some ladders, umbrellas and tentpoles also use this technology.

Not coincidentally, these applications all share a common trait.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Surrounded by sea of scissors, masking tape and aluminum foil, dozens of families gathered at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to build pinhole projectors out of paper towel tubes, long rectangular cardboard boxes and cereal boxes.

Martial Trezzini / AP/Keystone

Analogies are a common problem solving method in research. For example, the Wright Brothers used their knowledge of how balance and weight affect a bicycle to create the first airplane. Velcro was invented when a Swiss engineer took a closer took at the burrs that stuck to his dog's fur.

Courtesy of Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

Charlie Riedel / AP

Pennsylvania's top prosecutor wants to make sure people don't get burned by glassed they've bought to view Monday's solar eclipse.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says folks should check to make sure their glasses have filters recommended by NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which runs the nation's space exploration program.

Shapiro says the fake glasses don't have the NASA-recommended filters and people who try to view the eclipse using them could hurt their eyes.

Garry Knight / Wikipedia Commons

The elderly benefit more from standing exercises than traditional seated ones, according to a report by the University of Pittsburgh. Researcher Jennifer Brach said while this has been assumed for quite a while, her study was the first to prove it scientifically.

screengrab via nasa.gov

There’s no shortage of excitement surrounding Monday’s solar eclipse.

Though Pittsburghers won’t be able to view a total eclipse (states south of Pittsburgh will get the full experience), we’ll still get about 80 percent coverage, according to NASA.

If you’re in the city or outside, you can check out what your view will look like on this Jet Propulsion Laboratory app:

Keith R. Stevenson / Pocono Record via AP

When Carolyn Choate was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2003, her tumor had already grown the size of a golf ball. Doctors gave her three years to live.

Fourteen years later, Choate is kayaking the Delaware River for a cause that's close to her heart: continuing the work of the woman who saved her life.

"This trip is our tribute to Dr. Angela Brodie," Choate said. "She's not here to see me finish this, but we want her work to continue."

Best Robotics

The national robotics education nonprofit Best Robotics is moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh.

Thousands of students participate in Best Robotics competitions annually, spending six weeks building robots with real world potential.

“Every year there's an industry theme for the competition,” said executive director Rosemary Mendel. “Last year, it was agriculture; this year, it's fire and rescue.”

The idea is to train the future tech workforce and get more kids excited about pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

As students in Pittsburgh and across the state prepare to head back to school, they will be required to comply with a new immunization policy from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Terry Collins will tell you BPA is a scary compound. It's a chemical that's used to manufacture plastics, and more than 6 billion pounds of it are produced every year.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Every year in the U.S., 200,000 people get pacemakers, 600,000 get knee replacements and 2.5 million have surgery to implant artificial eye lenses to fix cataracts. But the medical community knows little about how the aging process affects these implantable medical devices.

Bryan Brown wants to change that.

He’s a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and he’s trying to figure out how to harness the immune system’s natural inflammatory response to better integrate these devices into the body.

Jim Fetzner / Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has helped discover three new kinds of crayfish in Kentucky's Appalachian region. Jim Fetzner and his team said these newly classified lobster-like crustaceans could help us understand how crayfish evolve.

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