Science, Health & Tech

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

Keith Srakocic / AP

A federal grand jury has indicted a former Pittsburgh-area physician on 121 counts for illegally distributing opioids, health care fraud and money laundering.

Matt Rourke / AP

More than 100 scrubs-clad nurses filled the Capitol rotunda Tuesday in an effort to convince lawmakers they’re overworked, and the state needs to do something about it.

They brought with them more than 10,000 signatures from around the state supporting legislation that would create minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Kids from the Homewood-Brushton YMCA recently explored outer space – by journeying to a Bridgeville business park.

The space-themed, three-day field trip was hosted by DDI tech workers, a leadership consulting company. They invited kids from the Y Creator Space program, which teaches, “innovation, collaboration, and problem-solving skills through projects involving 3D printing, robotics, graphic design, circuitry, engineering, and more," according to the program's website.

David Zalubowski / AP

Starting Wednesday, people with medical marijuana cards will be able to buy the product in dry leaf form at more than a dozen Pennsylvania dispensaries, including stores in Squirrel Hill and the Strip District.

Previously, medical marijuana first had to be processed into other forms, such as pills, liquids or topical ointments. Patients are still prohibited from smoking it, but can consume the product with a vaporizer.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the new policy increases access and options for consumers.

Mel Evans / AP

Six states are sharing more than $22 million in federal grants to help people recovering from opioid addiction get back to work.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is back in compliance for the amount of lead in its drinking water, according to results from the latest round of testing showing levels at 10 parts per billion.

Jakob Lazzaro / 90.5 WESA

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s collection of plant specimens is housed in rows of tall, dusty metal filing cabinets on the building’s upper floors. When researchers want to study one of the collection's specimens, they have to request it through the mail sight unseen and wait to see if it's what they need.

Janice Carr / CDC via AP

More vigorous testing and treatment could significantly decrease the likelihood of children getting sepsis, a complication of an infection that can sometimes be life-threatening, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says Pennsylvania's health insurance market is improving, with health insurers offering individual market policies for 2019 with an average statewide rate increase of less than 1 percent.

The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance also said Monday that customers in 31 of 67 counties will see more insurers offering policies.

The projected increase is lower than the aggregate statewide increase of 5 percent that insurers originally requested at May's deadline.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A 90.5 WESA analysis of food facility inspection violations data from the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and the Allegheny County Department of Health reveals the restaurants and stores that committed the most health and safety infractions between Jan. 1, 2012 and July 17, 2018 in Allegheny County.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

About 100 people filled Pittsburgh City Council chambers Tuesday for a hearing on a proposed UPMC vision and rehabilitation hospital in Uptown. Many were opposed to the plan and called on the multi-billion-dollar non-profit to provide more affordable care and offer expanded benefits for employees.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

For the first time, scientists have discovered the source of a vanishingly tiny particle called a neutrino that came from outside the Milky Way, with the help of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

The center's powerful computers helped trace the particle's origin to the collapse of a supermassive black hole nearly 4 billion light years away.

About 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second. They're invisible to the eye, but when they react with water molecules at a high speed, they eminate a bluish light.

UPMC

A march is scheduled on Tuesday ahead of a public hearing at Pittsburgh’s city council about a proposed UPMC vision and rehabilitation hospital in Uptown.

Colin Charles / Flickr

New analysis from the University of Pittsburgh has found a link between alcohol and perceived physical attractiveness. In other words, “beer goggles” are real.

Researchers looked at data from some 1,800 people collected from 16 previous studies. Participants rated the attractiveness of people in photographs, about half were drinking, and the other sober.

The intoxicated group gave modestly higher scores.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh ranks fourth out of all large U.S. metropolitan areas in the number of days where the air posed moderate-to-serious health risks, according to new analysis from a statewide environmental organization.

Report: Amid Crisis, Doctors Are Writing Fewer Opioid Prescriptions

Jul 12, 2018
Blue Cross Blue Shield Assocation

Prescriptions for opioids fell 29 percent nationwide from 2013 to 2017, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

ACA Funding Freeze Adds Uncertainty For PA Marketplace

Jul 11, 2018
Andrew Harnik / AP

The U.S. Health and Human Services department has put a freeze on $10.4 billion in funding that was expected to go to Affordable Care Act insurers later this year, raising questions about the future of the exchange in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research

The virtual reality simulation “Opioid Rescue” opens with an unconscious man lying on a basement floor next to an empty syringe.

“The first thing I’m going to do is try to talk to him and see if he’s conscious,” said Grace Mueller, an intern at the University of Pittsburgh’s Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research, also known as WISER.

“Are you OK? Wake up!” a female voice asked the unconscious man.

“It seems like he’s not responding so I’m going to try and shake his shoulders,” she said.

Sarah Boden / WESA News

The death of black teenager Antwon Rose at the hands of a white police officer has been a catalyst for social activism in Pittsburgh, and might also stir up past trauma for people of color.  

Carnegie Mellon University

The seed of a tropical plant and run-of-the-mill sand is all researchers needed to create a powerful water filtration system, according to a team from Carnegie Mellon University refining the process.

The Moringa oleifera tree is native to India and found in many developing countries in tropical and subtropical regions. Proteins inside the tree's seed kill bacteria, and the ground up seed is sometimes used as a rudimentary filtration system.

Sue Ogrocki / AP

A new algorithm created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University could help geneticists understand the DNA replication process and how it varies from organism to organism. 

PA Hospital Cuts Opioid Scripts, Looks At New Ways To Ease Pain

Jul 2, 2018
Toby Talbot / AP

The culture of clinicians treating pain as a fifth vital sign, targeting pain-free living through a prescription regimen, is acknowledged as a driving factor behind the rise of opioid addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine found 4 in 5 new heroin users began by abusing prescription painkillers.

Geisinger Health System took efforts to change that culture internally, slashing by half its opioid prescriptions and focusing instead on a regimen of pain management combining physical therapy with changes in diet and behavior.

Patrick Semansky / AP

In January, 39-year-old Damian Chadwick died at a Bethel Park barbershop a little before 2 p.m. According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, the overdose death was due to a combination of cocaine, alcohol and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

As the opioid epidemic rages on, more and more places from libraries to Goodwill stores are keeping the anti-overdose drug naloxone on hand. 

Since September, all YMCAs of Greater Pittsburgh have had somoene on duty who’s trained to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose by restarting a person’s breathing.

Mel Evans / AP

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health finds that opioid-related overdose deaths are being underreported, and this means the epidemic may be worse than it appears.

Potentially 70,000 opioid-related overdose deaths were not included in national estimates between 1999 and 2015. Researchers estimates that 1,307 of those deaths where in Pennsylvania, the largest number of any state.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Often the most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is the moment they decide to leave an abuser. An app from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh can help people make a plan to get away and find a safe place to go.

The center launched the RUSafe app in 2014 as a way to connect domestic violence victims with help hotlines, advocates and shelters. It also included a self-assessment, asking questions about physical abuse and violence at the hands of partners to determine if people are in an unsafe situation.

Mark Thiessen / AP

Microscopic mites are causing extreme itching in Pennsylvania’s black bears, leading to hair loss, lesions, infections and even death.

Ryan Kang / AP

Under Pennsylvania law, a person operating a car, truck, boat or airplane can be arrested if they're under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana is federally considered a Schedule 1 drug, lumping it with heroin, LSD and esctacy.

State Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) says this creates confusion for law enforcement if they pull over a medical marijuana patient. Delozier will soon introduce legislation to allow medical marijuana patients to operate a vehicle while under the influence, as long as their driving is not impaired.

Brett Sholtis / Transforming Health

Marilou Yingling has run York's home lead testing and enforcement program for 28 years.

House Moves To Amend Medical Marijuana Law’s Research Rules

Jun 20, 2018
David Zalubowski / AP

State lawmakers moved Tuesday to reinstate the research provision of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law, a month after a court decision left it in limbo.

NASA.gov

Astronauts often use zip-ties for quick fixes on payloads and hardware outside the International Space Station, but cutting them can be tricky and create debris.

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