Science, Health & Tech

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

Nelson Antoine / AP

Allegheny County Council is considering an ordinance that would ban mental health care professionals from providing so-called “conversion therapy” to minors.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Matt Michaux used to be a basketball coach at Fox Chapel High School. He said back then, he'd train with students before and after school. However, when he and his wife had a kid, that wasn't an option anymore. 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

UPMC broke ground Thursday morning on its new vision and rehabilitation tower.

The nine-story, Uptown facility will be part of UPMC Mercy and is projected to open in late 2022. Hospital officials said it will contain subspecialty clinics and research facilities, which will treat complex medical needs and draw patients from outside the region. 

“Uptown, Pittsburgh, Mercy Hospital will become a destination for [ophthalmology] care,” said Michael Grace, president of UPMC Mercy. “Our hopes are for this building to help cure blindness.”

Jim Cole / AP

Preliminary results show artificial intelligence developed by the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC can reduce false positive test results for lung cancer.



Pittsburgh Modular Synthesizers’ Homewood workshop is filled with the whirring sounds of electronic music. Founder Richard Nicol started the company in his basement in 2012. Now, he and his team design and develop synthesizers for creating electronic music that are used all over the world.

Struggling Rural Hospitals To Test New Funding Model

Mar 11, 2019
Courtesy photo

Five rural Pennsylvania hospitals are testing a pilot program that aims to keep them financially viable and help them better target resources to patients. 

The plan replaces the typical "fee for services" payment structure with something called a "global budget model." 

Pennsylvania Looking For New Ways To Fight Spotted Lanternfly

Mar 11, 2019
Photo by Courtesty Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Pennsylvania is looking for new ways to fight the invasive spotted lanternfly, nearly five years after it was first discovered in Berks County.

Despite the commonwealth's efforts, the pest is spreading to other states.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding told lawmakers at a recent budget hearing the strategy to fight the invasive insect so far has been to contain and suppress the population.

That's done partly though quarantines and educating people on what the bug and its offspring look like, so eggs can be destroyed as they're found.

Mark Schiefelbein / AP

Starting this fall, people will be able to take courses in cybersecurity at the University of Pittsburgh without attending the school full-time. Instructors say the opportunity is to address a growing gap between available cybersecurity jobs and those qualified to fill them.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has reopened the application process for marijuana producers who want to supply the drug to medical researchers to study its “therapeutic or palliative” uses.

The process and guidance have not changed from the first time around, when all eight producers who applied were rejected. In December, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said that six of the submissions were incomplete, and the other two didn’t meet minimum standards.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Millions of insects will make their way through Pittsburgh over the next five years under a renewed contract between the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under the partnership, a team at the museum will study 6,000 insect traps per year, searching for unwanted and invasive species.

Allegheny County Health Department

Fewer Allegheny County residents are dying from opioid-related overdoses. 

Joshua Franzos / Courtesy of Dr. Arthur Levine

Dr. Arthur Levine is stepping down from his longtime post as dean of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine and as its vice chancellor for health sciences to start a new Alzheimer’s research lab.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state Department of Health wants to hire 10 scientists to learn more about the health risks of the PFAS group of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other illnesses.

Krystal Biotech

A South Side biotech company is working to treat rare skin diseases by delivering gene therapy with a topical gel embedded with a modified version of the herpes virus.

Report: Coal Ash Contamination Widespread In U.S., PA

Mar 5, 2019

A new report finds coal ash pollution is leaking into groundwater at nine power plants around Pennsylvania and over 200 nationwide.

Cocaine, Meth On Rise In Pennsylvania’s Early Warning Areas

Mar 5, 2019
U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP

Methamphetamine and cocaine use are on the rise in Pennsylvania while prescription drug and heroin deaths are leveling off in some areas, data that appears to reflect nationwide trends.

Jennifer Smith, secretary for Pennsylvania's Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, told a state Senate committee Monday that the state is seeing "quite an uptick" in cocaine and methamphetamine use in three early warning areas.

The Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Johnstown areas are usually the first to show new trends across Pennsylvania, Smith said.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller and other officials fielded dozens of questions from lawmakers during two days of budget hearings this week.

While those questions covered a wide range of topics, here are three issues from the hearings likely to come up throughout the legislative session:

Work requirements for people getting assistance

John Minchillo / AP

A new study from University of Pittsburgh researchers finds that when predicting suicide risk in young adults, extra focus should be paid to the fluctuation of depressive symptoms.

Tom E. Puskar/ AP Images for NFL Network

Pop Warner will become the first national football program at any level to eliminate the three-point stance in further efforts to make the sport safer for young players.

The nation's longest-serving youth football organization, headquartered in Langhorne, Pa., said Thursday the ban will be introduced in Pop Warner's three youngest divisions this season. It's aimed at changing how offensive and defensive linemen engage in contact when the ball is snapped.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Justin Kitzes and his team at the University of Pittsburgh spend a lot of time listening to birds.

Don Ryan / AP

Patients’ search histories could be the key to delivering better health care, according to a new study by Penn Medicine researchers.

The study, which was recently published in the journal BMJ Open, found that health-related searches double in the week before an emergency-room visit. Pairing those searches with a patient’s electronic health records reveals gaps in patient communication and care.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Western Pennsylvania’s largest health care company is suing Pennsylvania’s attorney general in U.S. District Court.

Matt Rourke / AP

A state study released Thursday found the number of Pennsylvania children killed or nearly killed after abuse had occurred spiked recently, increases likely driven by a new definition of abuse and an uptick in its reporting in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky and Roman Catholic clergy child sexual abuse scandals.

Catherine Kelleher, own of Murrysville BeBalanced / Lovely Day Events

At a Murrysville strip mall last month, more than a dozen people, mostly women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, crowded into a storefront. 

Courtesy of Sojourner House

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court made a controversial decision in December, ruling that women who use drugs during pregnancy are not guilty of child abuse. The case involved a woman who gave birth to a child with neo-natal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when a baby is withdrawing from drugs they were exposed to in the womb.

Advocates Flag Concerns Over PA's New Mental Health Law

Feb 19, 2019
Mel Evans / AP



A state law that takes effect in April has some mental health advocates concerned, even as others tout it as a way to help people with serious mental illnesses.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh researchers have found that previous exposure to Dengue Fever lowers the risk of infection from the Zika virus, which may have implications for maternal health.


The people have spoken: a token from Kennywood Park will be sent to the moon's surface as part of Pittsburgh company Astrobotic's first lunar payload, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2021.

Courtesy of UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster

One department at a time, UPMC Pinnacle is shutting down its Lancaster hospital.

The hospital has stopped accepting new physician referrals, the Pittsburgh-based health system said in a news release. 

As of Feb. 23, ambulance services will stop bringing patients to the hospital. It will instead route them to Lancaster's other hospital -- Penn Health-affiliated Lancaster General -- or to UPMC PInnacle's Litiz location, seven miles away.