Science, Health & Tech

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

A Surge Of Black Lung Disease In Appalachia

Feb 22, 2018
Timothy D. Easly / AP

An ugly legacy of the coal mining industry is making a comeback in Appalachia. Despite regulations meant to protect workers from toxic coal dust, a whole new generation of miners is being diagnosed with the most severe form of black lung disease. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

There are few options available to adults with autism spectrum disorder who want to improve their social or communication skills, but a study from the University of Pittsburgh that looks at two types of interventions has produced some promising results.

Carnegie Mellon University

A team of students from Carnegie Mellon University was one of eight squads world-wide selected earlier this month by Amazon to compete in its Alexa Prize challenge.

The goal is to develop "socialbot" artificial intelligence software that can hold engaging conversations with people on a wide range of topics, like sports and current events. 

Jeff Roberson / AP, file

Methamphetamines have faded into the background as the opioid epidemic has taken hold of the country with deadly tenacity.

However, in the last couple of years, meth cases have been on the rise in some parts of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The change is one of degrees, said Patrick Trainor, a supervisory special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Philadelphia.

“These drugs have never gone away, but we have noticed an increase in seizures in this region,” he said.

NorthWest EMS

It’s about a quarter to midnight on a Sunday at the NorthWest EMS Helen Street station in McKees Rocks. EMT Edd Keisling just clocked out after working a 40-hour shift.

diane cordell / Flickr

Preliminary results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show what everyone had suspected, this year’s flu vaccine isn’t very effective.

Final numbers might change slightly, but the vaccine’s effectiveness rate is only 36 percent.

Keith Srakocic / AP

It's been nearly two years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and this week, a handful of dispensaries began selling it.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

At about 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, the door at the Solevo Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Squirrel Hill opened, allowing in a line of patients that wrapped around the building.

Legal Medical Marijuana Sales Begin At Pennsylvania Facility

Feb 15, 2018
Ryan Kang / AP

The first legal medical marijuana sales under a 2-year-old state law began Thursday at a dispensary in western Pennsylvania, with the first purchase by a woman who lobbied for passage of the law.

A line of about a dozen people greeted employees as they opened the doors of the Cresco Yeltrah dispensary in Butler. Five other dispensaries are expected to start sales in the coming days.

Diana Briggs of Export, Pennsylvania, said the $178 purchase she made should easily be enough to treat her 17-year-old son Ryan for a month.

University of Pittsburgh

A new biotech incubator specializing in immunology will open in around two years at the site of a former Ford auto plant on Baum Boulevard.

 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A 2017 report by the Brookings Institution suggested that Pittsburgh as a whole could realize its economic potential more fully by turning Oakland into a central hub for innovation and technology.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Emergency medical workers in Westmoreland County will soon begin leaving naloxone and addiction treatment information with overdose survivors who refuse to go to the hospital.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department / AP

At Friday’s symposium “Responsible Reporting of Gun Violence” at the University of Pittsburgh, researchers discussed how to prevent mass shootings.

Russell Palarea, an operational psychologist who works in Bethesda, Maryland, works to thwart intentional and targeted acts of violence. He said that it’s a myth that people snap and then commit mass violence.

Uber To Pay $245 Million To Settle Waymo's Theft Allegations

Feb 9, 2018
Eric Risberg / AP

Uber is paying $245 million to Google's self-driving car spinoff to end a legal brawl that aired out allegations of a sinister scheme that tore apart the once-friendly companies.

Are Pipelines To Blame For Decline In Ancient Salamanders?

Feb 9, 2018
Dave Herasimtschuk / Freshwaters Illustrated

As the natural gas industry matures in our region, construction of big transmission pipelines like the Constitution and the Rover continue make headlines. But there are also thousands of miles of smaller pipelines being built in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to connect drilling well pads to the energy distribution system. These lines have far less oversight and could be having big impacts on smaller streams, and the wildlife that lives there.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $17.5 million in emergency funding to fight the spread of the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania.

The invasive species was first spotted in District Township in 2014. It has since spread to 12 counties and threatens the state's $18 billion grape, orchard and logging industries.

In an announcement Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says "decisive action" was needed to stop the insect from spreading to neighboring states.

Pittsburgh Startup Uses Augmented Reality To Teach Piano

Feb 6, 2018
Music Everywhere

As a kid, Seth Glickman, like many people, learned to play the piano by taking lessons with a teacher. He was talented, and he went on to become a music instructor himself, but later Glickman questioned whether in-person lessons were the best approach for everyone who wanted to learn.

"What about the people for whom that doesn't work?" said Glickman.

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Testing stamp bags seized by law enforcement can give almost real-time insight into what drugs are circulating in the community before a public health emergency hits.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The first medical marijuana dispensary in southwest Pennsylvania opened its doors Thursday.

Google

A small explosion in a lab at science complex at the University of Pittsburgh prompted a brief evacuation, officials said Wednesday.

University spokesman Joe Miksch said the blast happened at about 2:45 p.m. in the Life Sciences Annex in the Clapp, Langley and Crawford Hall complex, which houses the biological sciences and neuroscience department. 

Andrew McAfee / Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked, plant eating dinosaur that lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 80 million years ago, and its discovery is disrupting a major theory in the field of paleontology.

Jessica Hill / AP

Two dental clinics in northern Pennsylvania have reduced hours due to the instability of federal funding.

Keystone Rural Health Consortia operates the clinics in Elk and Cameron counties. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said KRHC is one of 50 community health centers in the state.

Tony Dejak / AP

Peptidic natural products, or PNPs, are groupings of amino acids that can make for effective antibiotics like penicillin and vancomycin. These chemical compounds are produced by microbes to kill off competing organisms and can exist everywhere, including in soil and in the human body.

VarQuest, an algorithm created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California San Diego and Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, has given scientists a way to quickly identify previously undiscovered PNPs.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Nicole Steele, clad in a face mask and thin plastic protective cover over her shirt, strung a ukulele while 14-year-old Yaheim Young played alongside her. The two had a jam session on the ninth floor of the UPMC Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Highmark’s Medicare costumers can continue receiving in-network care from nine UPMC hospitals until the end of 2019, due to a Monday ruling by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini.

Gerald Herbert / AP

According to the American Lung Association, state lawmakers are not doing enough to reduce tobacco use in the state. The group gave Pennsylvania's smoking-adjacent policies a D-average.

The association rated the commonwealth in five categories -- prevention and cessation funding, smoke-free air, tobacco taxes, cessation services and the legal age of purchasing tobacco. Pennsylvania received Fs across the board, except in smoke free-air (C) and tobacco taxes (D). 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Parents of 180,000 children across Pennsylvania, including 14,000 kids in Allegheny County, are breathing sighs of relief now that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been renewed for six years.

Philadelphia Wants Safe Injection Sites To Help Opioid Fight

Jan 24, 2018
Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Philadelphia wants to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic, officials announced Tuesday, saying they are seeking outside operators to establish one or more in the city.

Keith Srakokic / AP Photo

There's evidence to suggest that cocaine is more addictive for adolescents than adults. Scientists believe that at least part of this has to do with biological mechanisms in the brain, but they're not sure exactly what those mechanisms are.

A special sensor being developed at the University of Pittsburgh could help give them a better understanding.

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

Lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water are back above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced Monday that the latest round of compliance testing showed levels at 21 parts per billion.

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