Science, Health & Tech

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

UPMC

*UPDATED Nov. 3, 2017 at 5:44 p.m.

Pennsylvania’s largest hospital system has announced a $2 billion project to build three “digital hospitals of the future” in Pittsburgh, in partnership with Microsoft. The new UPMC facilities will focus on cancer, vision and rehabilitation, and the heart and transplants.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says more than 1,000 people signed up for the state's new medical marijuana program on its first day.

A health department spokesman tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the registrations include patients and caregivers.

The department announced Wednesday that it was accepting applications to participate in the system.

A 2016 state law gives people under a doctor's care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

Toby Talbot / AP

President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. It’s still unclear how much funding, if any, is tied to that declaration, but whatever resources are marshaled will likely fund work done by people most commonly thought of as fighting on the front lines of the epidemic, like social workers, addiction counselors and physicians.

Pennsylvania Starts Signing Up Medical Marijuana Patients

Nov 1, 2017
David Goldman / AP

Pennsylvanians are closer to being able to get marijuana to help treat their medical conditions as the state is launching its patient and caregiver registry.

The Health Department announced Wednesday that a pilot program was successful and the agency is accepting applications to participate in the system. It's expected to be up and running within six months.

Icelandair via AP Images

Pittsburghers are used to seeing Uber’s self-driving cars on local streets, and one Bloomfield-based startup is partnering with aerospace giant Boeing to bring similar technology into the air.

Passenger jets can already guide themselves through a planned trajectory in the air, but it's limited. They can't make their own decisions along the way or land themselves.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A Pittsburgh hospital's registered nurses have approved a new, three-year contract.

The union says the contract agreed on Monday night raises hiring rates for nurses at Allegheny General Hospital, provides longevity increases for experienced nurses and improves nurse-to-patient ratios

Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania represents 1,300 nurses at the hospital.

No details of the deal were released, which replaces a one-year agreement that expired Oct. 13.

The nurses remained on the job as negotiations continued.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Wednesday is the first day of the open enrollment period for Americans to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for 2018.

About 40,000 Allegheny County residents were enrolled in marketplace plans through the exchanges last year, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

“It has been a tremendous benefit,” said Fitzgerald. “Not just for their physical health and their health security, but also on their financial security, families and where they live.”

Andrew Harnik / AP

The window to sign up for individual health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace begins Wednesday, Nov. 1, amid fewer federal resources to help people sign up and increased confusion over the law itself. 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Courtney Bittner is mom to 3-year-old Bentley, and 3-week-old Nash.

Haven Daley / AP

The implementation of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was the focus of a session Tuesday during the annual conference of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Planning Association.

The meeting raised more questions than answers regarding the commonwealth’s recent legalization of medical pot.

Questions included:

Who reviews the medical marijuana applications?

What will happen to growers who aren’t up and running in six months?

Will businesses be able to get financial backing from banks?

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

An innovative new treatment for an aggressive form of blood cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The strain of lymphoma, targeted by the cell-based therapy, has a patient survival rate of about 40 percent, according to UPMC physician Mounzer Agha, director of the Mario Lemiuex Center for Blood Cancers at Hillman Cancer Center. He was involved in the new drug's clinical trails.

Fred Vuich / AP

Concussions and head-related trauma have become a major concern for football players, from the National Football League to pee-wee games.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Nearly half of children in Pennsylvania had at least one adverse childhood experience, or ACE, according to a a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 

More than one in five had at least two adverse experiences.

 

Eric Risberg / AP

A Senate committee has moved a bill to reauthorize Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program—or CHIP.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

For pediatric cancer patients, their chances of having children in the future can be diminished by treatment. But an experimental treatment available at UPMC could preserve fertility for young boys going through radiation.

Spermatogonial stem-cell transplantation involves taking a sample of testicular tissue and turning pre-sperm cells into viable samples. When re-inserted into testes, even if they're damaged by radiation and chemotherapy, the sperm stem cells function as they would naturally and become sperm.

Susan Walsh / AP

After a damaging report on the opioid crisis from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino withdrew his name this week as the next possible drug czar under the Trump Administration.

Whistleblowers and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration employees say Marino, a Republican from Lycoming County, lead the way to pass a bill that essentially handcuffed them from doing their job.

Highmark's Allegheny Health Network Announces $1B Expansion

Oct 18, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Highmark Health will spend $1 billion to expand its Allegheny Health Network hospital chain, including a new 160-bed hospital in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs, four smaller neighborhood hospitals, and renovations to existing hospitals, the Pittsburgh-based company announced Wednesday.

Highmark Health, the parent of health insurer Highmark Inc. and its eight-hospital network, announced earlier this year that it's spending $315 million on a new cancer institute at its flagship Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and other expansions of its facilities in Erie.

Facebook / Screenshot

Pittsburghers woke up this morning to find they had unknowingly been transported to Philadelphia, according to their Facebook accounts.

Facebook released a statement saying:  “Earlier today, a bug caused some people in Pittsburgh to get prompts related to Philadelphia. We've fixed the issue.”

The bug caused the site's location software to think Yinzers were visiting the City of Brotherly Love.

Tony Talbot / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is using $4 million in federal aid to help start up four regional medication-assisted programs to treat people struggling with drug addiction.

The $1 million grants announced Tuesday will be anchored by four health systems in Pennsylvania.

They are going to Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, Danville-based Geisinger, York-based WellSpan Health and Harrisburg's Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a collaboration between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

Lance Davidson and Rafey Feroze / University of Pittsburgh

The potential of tissue engineering is huge -- think replacement cartilage or artificial organs -- but current techniques are inefficient. 

If an engineer were building a house, they'd consider the properties of the materials they were using and the physical forces acting upon them.

If they're building biological tissue, they'll want to do the same.

Wolf Blames Trump, Congress For Spiking Health Coverage Cost

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is blaming President Donald Trump for a sharp increase in the cost of health insurance that'll take effect next year for residents who buy individual plans.

Wolf's administration released the approved 2018 rates Monday, saying the average increase will be just over 30 percent. Wolf's office said the increase would've been less than 8 percent if Trump hadn't halted cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers or created uncertainty around the fate of the individual mandate.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania's leading hospital association and advocates for the poor all reacted strongly Friday to a move by the Trump administration to stop paying cost-sharing subsidies that have helped lower the price of health insurance policies sold through the Healthcare.gov marketplace.

Jonathan Alvarsson / flickr

Pennsylvania's auditor general says a survey of nearly 1,000 school districts and municipalities finds that most do not employ a cyber security professional or consult with one.

Robert Pfeil / AP

The influenza virus spreads one person at at time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infected individual coughs, sneezes or even just talks, and airborne droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people up to 6 feet away.

PA Offering $5M Worth Of Naloxone To First Responders

Oct 6, 2017
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Pennsylvania will spend $5 million on the overdose-reversal medication naloxone to help first responders fight the toll of the opioid epidemic, state officials announced Thursday.

UPMC

UPDATED: Oct. 6, 2017 at 12:14 p.m.

Doctors at UPMC have performed a cutting edge form of surgery to repair the heart after severe heart attacks for the first time in the United States.

Less Invasive Ventricular Enhancement, or LIVE, uses anchors to fold over scar tissue that can result from a particular type of massive heart attack affecting the left anterior descending artery which runs down the front side of the heart.

AI-Inspired Work At CMOA Has A Mind Of Its Own

Oct 3, 2017
Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

At the Carnegie Museum of Art, a 17-foot LED screen displays what looks like a video game in progress, but there’s no one playing.

When Ian Cheng was first making animations, he found himself obsessing over miniscule details, milliseconds of animation action.

“And so I started to think about, or hallucinate, what it might be like to make art where you as an artist lose control,” said Cheng.

Dr. E. Arum, Dr. N. Jacobs / CDC via AP

The national rate of sexually transmitted diseases is at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 2016 statistics from Allegheny County reveal a similar trend.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Mallory Smith rolls her IV medication pole as she walks through the hallway at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital to get some exercise following major surgery.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico City last week, rescue teams from several countries assisted Mexico in search-and-and rescue efforts. They were joined by a 3-foot-long, 2-inch-wide reptilian robot from Carnegie Mellon University.

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