Breakthroughs | KERA News

Breakthroughs

Breakthroughs is a weekly series devoted to the latest innovations in health, science and technology — with a North Texas accent.

Explore special Breakthroughs multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

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President Trump called the opioid crisis in the United States a national emergency last week, and Texas has joined a coalition of states to investigate the role pharmaceutical companies have played in creating and prolonging the epidemic.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Nearly half a million plant specimens that are native to Louisiana will soon take up residence at Fort Worth’s Botanical Research Institute of Texas – also known as BRIT.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

A new gene-editing technique developed in North Texas shows promise in stunting Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe genetic disorder that affects about one in every 5,000 boys.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Cancer patients face special challenges in addition to the disease — like complications from chemotherapy and weakened immune systems.

Hospitals are recognizing that cancer patients need special emergency care, too.

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A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel ushered in a new era for cancer treatment last week. The panel unanimously recommended the approval of the first treatment to fight acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a common blood cancer in children – with a patient’s own cells.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have built a small, inexpensive sensor they say can tip you off if you're at risk for Type 2 diabetes — the world's leading cause of amputations, blindness and kidney failure.

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Birds and babies may seem like very different creatures, but a new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center has uncovered parallels in how both species master language.

Dr. Todd Roberts, who's spearheading the research, explains how a network of neurons in the brains of zebra finches could expand our understanding of how people learn speech.

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A vote on the Senate's health care bill has been delayed until after the July 4 recess. If the bill is passed, it will roll back programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and the Congressional Budget Office predicts 22 million more people will be uninsured by 2026.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

At the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, researchers are doing something unusual: They’re making people fall down. It’s all happening at the Human Movement Performance Lab, where they’re mapping how people with Parkinson’s disease and other mobility issues react to jolts and falls.

UT Southwestern Medical Center / YouTube

Researchers in North Texas have identified more than 100 genes linked to memory in the human brain. 

Dr. Genevieve Konopka of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas talks about her team's research — and how it could help develop new therapies for patients who have epilepsy or memory disorders. 

Every year, hundreds of millions of documents are notarized in the United States: wills, mortgages, citizenship forms, handgun applications. And since the founding of this nation, notarizations have been done pretty much the same way: in person.

Courtesy of The Family Place

Domestic violence victims are often women, but not only women. In Texas, one in three men report facing intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.

 

This month the Dallas nonprofit The Family Place opened one of the country’s first shelters exclusively for battered men and their families.

To understand why teen pregnancy rates are so high in Texas, meet Jessica Chester. When Chester was in high school in Garland, she decided to attend the University of Texas at Dallas. She wanted to become a doctor.

"I was top of the class," she says. "I had a GPA of 4.5, a full-tuition scholarship to UTD. I was not the stereotypical girl someone would look at and say, 'Oh, she's going to get pregnant and drop out of school.' "

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For patients visiting emergency rooms in Texas, surprise medical bills are common. In 2009, the Texas Legislature developed a mediation system for these hefty bills, but it was limited.

 

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a new law aimed at improving the system and expanding consumer protection.

Lauren Silverman / KERA

Maybe you’ve heard of sponsors or recovery coaches to help with drug and alcohol addiction. How about for mental health? In the last decade, peer support for people with serious mental illness has hit mainstream.

Jessica Chester and her children, from left, Ivory, Kameron and Skylar.
Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Across the U.S., the number of teenagers having babies has hit a record low — it's down to about one out of every 45 young women. That trend hasn't extended to certain parts of Texas, where it’s still nearly twice the national average.

Lauren Silverman / KERA

Across the country, new babies are sleeping in cardboard boxes. It might sound strange, but the boxes are part of a larger initiative to lower the infant mortality rate. So far, more than a million "Baby Boxes" have been distributed across the world.

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Nine in 10 Texans think it's harder to talk about a mental health condition than a physical health issue. The one place where it’s easier to talk about mental rather than physical health seems to be in the Texas Legislature, where a handful of bills are speeding through the House with near unanimous support. Among them is a bill to help enforce coverage of mental health benefits.

 

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Concussions are one of the most complex injuries in sports medicine today. In the past few years, there’s been an explosion of research focusing on how often concussions take place, how to measure them and how to prevent them.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

A national study a few years back revealed something shocking about black men in medical school: There were fewer in 2014 than in 1978. Med school recruiters are trying to step up their game, and one Dallas doctor has a tool that could help.

Courtesy of Baylor, Scott & White Health

For a parent, battling cancer is tough enough. Having to explain it to your kids can be a whole other challenge. That's why Baylor Scott & White Health has created a program that helps terminally ill parents talk to their young children about disease, treatment and death. A Dallas mother turned to Baylor specialists for help telling her son she had breast cancer.

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On any given day, about 5,000 inmates are held in Dallas County’s Lew Sterrett Justice Center. A third of them have some kind of mental illness.

Jeff Fitlow / Rice University

Tens of millions of Americans use inhalers each day. Many of them aren’t doing it right. That’s what new research from Baylor College of Medicine shows. Pulmonologists identified critical errors that are causing many inhaler users to get only about half as much medicine as they should from each puff.

Courtesy of Hydronalix

Robots aren’t just in our living rooms vacuuming rugs or in warehouses moving boxes. They’re everywhere: connecting pipes on offshore oil rigs, harvesting marijuana in Colorado and replacing batteries outside the International Space Station. They're even helping rescue refugees who are trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Over the past month, Baylor Scott & White Health has been distributing free diabetic shoes to its uninsured, low-income patients to combat and prevent what doctors see as a diabetes crisis in North Texas. The shoe distribution is just one part of a Baylor program that takes its own medical surplus and gives them to the needy at home and abroad.

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It's 2017, but medical records are still mostly stuck in the dark ages. Most hospitals use electronic health records, but if you want your primary care doctor to share information with your allergist or surgeon, it’s a pain.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

A cotton nightgown for your child seems like a pretty simple thing to track down. But it wasn't for John Rodakis, a dad living in Dallas. He’d heard about dangerous chemicals once common in kids pajamas, and out of precaution, he wanted a nightgown that was made from all natural materials. He’s not the only one. There’s a whole underground market for them. 

Courtesy of Parkland Foundation

Any hospital stay can be traumatic. But 30 to 80 percent of patients in intensive care units go through a period of profound confusion known as ICU delirium that can have long-term negative health effects. 

Patients in Alexandria, La., were the friendliest people Dr. Muhammad Tauseef ever worked with. They'd drive long distances to see him, and often bring gifts.

"It's a small town, so they will sometimes bring you chickens, bring you eggs, bring you homemade cakes," he says.

One woman even brought him a puppy.

"That was really nice," he says.

Tauseef was born and raised in Pakistan. After going to medical school there, he applied to come to the U.S. to train as a pediatrician.

Pew Research Center

Most adults support routine childhood vaccinations for children. That’s the conclusion of a new, nationwide Pew Research Center survey. Still, in Texas, there’s a growing group of parents who oppose mandatory childhood vaccinations. 

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