Science, Health & Tech

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

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Shark Snider cut out of preschool early for an appointment with his pediatrician, Dr. Jonathan Weinkle of Squirrel Hill Health Center. The 3-year-old’s snoring had gotten worse, and his parents were worried it could be a symptom of something bigger.

Founder Institute

Whether it’s an app or a device, the path from start-up idea to full-fledged company often leads through programs called accelerators or hubs that can provide workspaces, guidance and even funding.  In Pittsburgh, there is AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear and Ascender.

Kenny Chen / Ascender

Seven Pittsburgh-based startups are still in the running for the IBM Watson  IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. That's more entries than any other U.S. city in the global challenge to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of the world's toughest problems.

Crazypaco / Wikimedia

Highmark health insurance has reached a five-year agreement with UPMC to allow its customers to receive care from select UPMC locations at in-network rates.

Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Pot Dispensary

Jan 4, 2018
David Goldman / AP

Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania's new medical marijuana program .

Bobby Caina Calvan / AP Photo

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control unveiled a series of anti-smoking ads intended to shock viewers called "Tips From Former Smokers" -- they showed graphic images of former smokers and the lifelong effects the habit left on their bodies. The CDC has said the campaign increased quit attempts in the United States.

Canon-McMillan School District

Computer programming might sound like an advanced skill, but at the Canon-McMillan School District south of Pittsburgh, students are beginning to learn how to code right when they start elementary school.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

A local nonprofit is offering free water filters to Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers, while working to educate Pittsburgh-area residents on preventing lead exposure.

Damian Devorganes / AP

The rate of early cancer diagnosis was higher in some states that expanded Medicaid compared to other that did not.

Feds Employ Data-Driven Early Warning System In Opioid Fight

Jan 2, 2018
Keith Srakocic / AP

The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

Jennifer Peltz / AP

Pennsylvanians have started receiving identification cards to get medication through the commonwealth's new medical marijuana program.

Ryan Kang / AP

Stephen Arch, a 60-year-old filmmaker from Moon Township, is prescribed the drug Klonopin for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he said stems from childhood trauma.

Carlos Osorio / AP

Allegheny County begins mandatory blood testing for lead in small children Jan. 1. 

Googlemaps

After a coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania closed, early-life health outcomes improved for babies across the border, in New Jersey.

The Portland Generating Station sits on the Delaware River, about two hours north of Philadelphia and right across the border from New Jersey. While in operation, it was one of the most prodigious emitters of sulfur dioxide in the nation, primarily affecting Jersey’s Warren, Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon Counties. It stopped burning coal in 2014, after the Environmental Protection Agency demanded it reduce its pollution levels.

Sajad Haghanifar / University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to improve the next generation of solar panels.

They’re using something called fused silica glass. Imagine tiny blades of grass, almost 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, tightly packed together.

That’s how the surface of fused silica glass will look under a microscope after Paul Leu, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and Sajad Haghanifar, a Ph.D. student in Leu's lab, bombard the glass' surface with charged particles called ions.

Blue Coat Photos / Flickr

If you’ve received a new computer as a holiday gift, it’s important to protect this device from so-called “tech support scams.”

Lorrie Faith Cranor is associate department head of Carnegie Mellon University’s department of Engineering and Public Policy. She’s also the former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission.

Cranor tells 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden to be wary of  unsolicited messages that claim to come from prominent companies. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

marcus eubanks/Flickr

Many people find it difficult to work, exercise and socialize this time of year due to a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

UPMC/Pitt Health Sciences

Prosthetics researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have landed a $5.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a lower limb prosthesis that mimics the feeling of a leg or foot.

Current prosthetics lack sensory feedback, so people who have lost a leg often struggle to walk. To recreate the sensations of balance and pressure, researchers are experimenting with an implant that transmits electronic signals to a simulator worn on the belt. 

Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana / flickr

The number of Pennsylvanians enrolled in insurance plans sold through the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace shrank slightly, as state officials accused the Trump administration of trying to undermine the system.

Matt Rourke / AP

Fights over federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has states trying to figure out how long their programs can hold out without getting more money.

Kit / Flickr

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is spearheading an initiative meant to standardize care for pediatric transplant patients.

Organ Donations From Fatal Drug Overdoses Double

Dec 16, 2017
Allen G. Breed / AP

Charles Grugan's drug addiction took a toll on his family.

They tried to help him, but on Oct. 12, 2011, Grugan 33, overdosed on heroin. He never recovered.

Penn State Health Partners With Highmark Health

Dec 15, 2017
Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Penn State Health has partnered with Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health. 

Matt Rourke / AP

 

The open enrollment period for people buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act comes to a close this Friday—a period half as long as last year’s. Nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvanian consumers selected the “middle-of-the-road” silver plan last year, but this year, costs for silver plans have rocketed.

ERIKA BERAS / 90.5 WESA

Community health clinics in Pennsylvania say they are on the verge of crisis. 

Congress has yet to reauthorize federal health center grant funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, which provide primary, dental, behavioral and substance abuse services to people with limited access to care. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said this money comprises roughly 13 percent of the total revenue for FQHCs in the commonwealth.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Some homes with solar panel installations also have solar batteries, which store energy for later use. A Pittsburgh start-up has developed artificial intelligence software that could make those batteries more efficient. 

Currently, solar batteries with decision-making abilities can only do so based on real-time information. For example, on a cloudy day when solar panels might not produce enough electricity to power a house, a charged battery would automatically kick in to make up the difference.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

The Allegheny County Lead Task Force has released a series of recommendations with the goal of minimizing childhood lead exposure. 

This Ancient Penguin Was As Big As Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby

Dec 12, 2017
Gerald Mayr / Senckenberg Research Institute via AP

Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby. It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds.

If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

In an effort to combat the opioid crisis, the state has distributed more than 27,000 doses of naloxone to 59 counties across the commonwealth. The Allegheny County Health Department received 2,100 doses that will be delivered to local police, EMTs and other first responders.

It's a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She's worried her young children's health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

"So, we're like a low-middle-class family, right?" she says. "I'm studying. My husband's working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it's not very good insurance either."

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

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