Health/Science/Tech | KERA News

Health/Science/Tech

Every week, KERA explores the latest in health, science and technology in North Texas through two main series, Vital Signs and Breakthroughs.

University of North Texas Ph.D candidate Ethan McBride prepares the precursor to the illegal drug PCP in a trailer.
Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Vital Signs

In Vital Signs, Sam Baker taps into the expertise of local health care leaders to provide insight into your everyday health and well-being.

Breakthroughs

In Breakthroughs, KERA reporters delve into the latest health-related technologies developed in North Texas and across the state. From the Zika virus to fried chicken, no scientific topic is off limits. 

Learn more in-depth 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. 

GlaxoSmithKline via Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new vaccine for shingles. Zostavax has been the only product on the market for the last decade. Now, Shingrix appears to be more effective against the painful, viral rash.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

When Dallas doctor Don Read enrolled in medical school at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston in 1964, he had to pay more than other students because he wasn’t a Texas resident.

“Back then I paid $500,” he said. “So things have changed a little bit since then.”

They sure have.

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We often think about our diet in terms of what it can do for our heart and our waistline, but the right nutrients also provide the fuel for the brain to operate properly.

Maggie Boyd, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, explains how to feed your brain.  

Photo courtesy of Oliver Wyman

It’s the second week of open enrollment for health care on the federal marketplace.

While people across North Texas are deciding which plans to sign up for, some of the people who design those very plans are meeting in Dallas. And they’re talking about what health care might look like five or 10 years from now at the Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit.

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Another good reason to watch your weight: Experts say obesity has likely contributed to a common, but potentially fatal condition called acute pancreatitis.

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Starting Wednesday, Texans can enroll in health care coverage for 2018 on healthcare.gov through Dec. 15.

Breast Health Center

A new state law this year requires commercial insurers to cover 3D mammograms, a more advanced — and expensive — form of screening for breast cancer than the standard 2D version.

Courtesy of Trinity River Authority

In the last decade, a multibillion-dollar industry has emerged - and much of its products end up in our toilets. We’re talking about the wet wipes industry. 

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While breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women, the American Cancer Society recently reported death rates from the disease declined nearly 40 percent between 1989 and 2015.

Open enrollment for health plans through the Affordable Care Act starts Nov. 1. But, this year, cutbacks in federal money for outreach efforts for potential enrollees could mean fewer people signing up for health insurance in Texas.

That gap in federal outreach means the work of getting people signed up could fall squarely on local advocates like Vitoria Ortega of Foundation Communities.

The Trump administration has made a number of changes to health policy in the past two weeks, raising questions about how consumers will be affected. Will the new rules for birth control coverage affect access to an intrauterine device? Might an association health plan help bring down costs for workers at small businesses? And if you're healthy, doesn't a short-term health plan that is cheaper than marketplace coverage make sense? Here are some answers to those questions.

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Researchers are launching clinical trials into prevention and treatment of kidney stones — hard deposits of minerals and salts that can block the flow of urine — as more Americans are contracting them and enduring their painful symptoms.

From Texas Standard:

Stephanie Garcia is a high school student. She’s also a 24-year-old inmate at the Lockhart Correctional Facility, a minimum-security women’s prison in Central Texas. Outside, her life was hectic, but here, every day is the same.

In just over four decades, obesity levels in children and teenagers have risen dramatically worldwide, though that rise has been far from uniform. In a new study published online Tuesday, British researchers and the World Health Organization say those levels have plateaued lately in high-income countries, "albeit at high levels," while the rise in obesity rates has only accelerated in regions such as East Asia and Latin America.

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Polycystic kidney disease — or PKD — causes numerous cysts to grow on the kidneys. It's the fourth leading cause of kidney failure. There is no cure, but a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center believes treatments are about 10 years away.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

HIV is no longer considered a death sentence in the United States, and people living with HIV are living longer. That’s largely thanks to antiretroviral drugs, which were first introduced 30 years ago.

As the earliest survivors are growing older, though, doctors are discovering new health challenges related to HIV.

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A recent study found 70 percent of Americans binge-watch TV shows, sitting through an average of five episodes per marathon session. But that trend raises some health concerns.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

The number of Texans testing positive for cannabis after a traffic accident has gone up over the last few years. Trouble is, there's no quick, reliable test to determine if they're driving while high.

 

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Identifying a human body isn't easy when you're dealing with decomposed remains or just a few scattered bones. The Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas specializes in these kinds of cases and receives requests for help from all over the nation. 

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More than 30 million people wear contact lenses. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control say most users wear and maintain them incorrectly. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA

Amazon’s Alexa voice platform is getting smarter. At the start of the year, she knew how to do only 7,000 things. Now, she has more than 15,000 so-called skills. These include everything from turning off your lights, to finding a restaurant nearby, to playing NPR.

Thousands of patients at Parkland Health & Hospital were mailed letters urging them to be screened for colon cancer. Some received an at-home test kit as well.
UT Southwestern Medical Center

What, if anything, can convince people to get tested for colorectal cancer?

 

Researchers have tried a variety of methods — from reminding patients during yearly checkups to paying them — but there may be a cheaper, easier way to boost screening rates, using snail mail.

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Falling is a common problem in senior adults that can have serious consequences, including loss of independence, brain traumatic injuries and even death. 

Courtesy of Mi Habana

Depending on who you ask, there are many ways to cure a cold. Some people turn to brand-name cough syrup and others, to herbal teas.

In Texas, there’s a long tradition of combining both modern and alternative medicine — a tradition that patients rarely discuss with their doctors.

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Despite concerns about addiction and overprescription of opioids, the drugs are still considered an effective choice for acute or short-term pain. But the brain also can produce results just as effective.

Children's Health System

There are a number of differences between the shelters housing Harvey evacuees and the ones where victims of Katrina went 12 years ago. A big one is telemedicine. Children, especially, are being treated by doctors in remote locations.

 

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A group of researchers in the United Kingdom argues the standard medical advice of completing a course of antibiotics may do more harm than good. Most doctors believe it's become standard advice for a reason.

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With school back in session, students are having to readjust from their summer sleeping habits. 

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High-intensity interval training involves repeated brief bursts of very intense exercise mixed with longer periods of easy recovery. Sounds like something for younger people, but a new study of mice suggests older people might benefit, too.

Worried about Internet companies snooping on your online browsing? You might turn to something called a virtual private network to protect your privacy. But researchers say these networks can themselves be insecure.

Earlier this year, the federal government rolled back rules that would have prevented Internet service providers from tracking your activity online.

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