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. 

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. 

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Family members usually have to wait outside when doctors treat someone for a serious injury. But that’s changing with trauma care for children. A new study finds it can be beneficial for the family to be inside the emergency room.  

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.

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Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have been looking into the reasons why patients return to hospitals within 30 days.

Results in 2016 focused on patients discharged with unstable vital signs. The latest study of six North Texas hospitals found a high rate of hospital-acquired anemia or a loss of red blood cells.  

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.

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Even though people sleep less as they age, it doesn’t mean they need less sleep. A geriatrics specialist talks about factors that can impair sleep for seniors and steps they can take to get some needed rest.

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.

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Five years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine blood tests to measure your level of prostate-specific antigens – the PSA test. The task force now recommends men 55 to 69 should talk with their doctor about whether to have the test. 

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.

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An umbilical cord after birth yields about three to five ounces of cell-rich cord blood. That's not a lot, but enough of it can help treat more than 80 or so diseases. A North Texas oncologist says education's key to boosting limited supply. 

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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Another potentially dangerous trend: the "eraser challenge." That's where you vigorously rub an eraser on your skin while reciting a certain phrase or the alphabet. The results can be disfiguring or worse. 

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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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It hasn’t been scientifically proven as beneficial, but that hasn’t stopped many from trying for the goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is touted as a way to stay in shape. However, a new study finds 15,000 steps might be better.  

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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.

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It’s believed a child born premature may be at risk later for heart problems as an adult. But a recent study suggests preterm birth may be an early sign of heart disease later for the mother. 

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.

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Each year, more than 35,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects. Chances for survival were slim not so long ago. But today, more than a million adults live with congenital heart defects. 

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau present the most detailed picture yet of the dramatic rise in the number of people covered by health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

County-level data going back to 2010, when the law was signed, show a patchwork of people living without health insurance that ticked down slowly for the first three years under the ACA. But once the online insurance exchanges opened at the end of 2013 and Medicaid expanded, the population living without coverage dropped noticeably.

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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The term "cardiomyopathy" refers to diseases of the heart muscle that make it difficult over time for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. As many as one in 500 people may have the condition. One form of it – dilated cardiomyopathy — contributed to the death of singer George Michael.

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Fish oil is among the most widely used supplements in the U.S. An estimated 20 percent of Americans consume them, but some nutritionists recommend sticking with the real thing – an oily fish like salmon or tuna. 

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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.

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Tonsils serve as sort of a filter in your body. Chances are many of you have had them removed, but two recent studies differ on when and if that’s necessary. 

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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.

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UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Miami are conducting a clinical trial of over-the counter meds – in this case, for people with bipolar disorder who have a drinking problem. 

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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An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, which is very treatable, according to the American Thyroid Association. But more than half the people with thyroid disease don’t know they have it.

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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.

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