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. 

Scientists have discovered what may be an important new risk factor for heart disease. And here's the surprising twist: The troublesome substance seems to be a waste product left behind by bacteria in our guts as they help us digest lecithin — a substance plentiful in red meat, eggs, liver and certain other foods.

Doctors say the research further illustrates the complicated relationship we have with the microbes living inside us, and could lead to new ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Bolstered by a recent study that found doctors performing hysterectomies performed using a pricey robot didn't produce better results for patients than ordinary — and cheaper — procedures, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently threw down a latex gauntlet against the use of robots.

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A recently published study suggests controlling or preventing risk factors like hypertension may limit or delay brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of age-related neurological deterioration. Dr. Karen Rodrigue of the UT Dallas Center for Vital Longevity talked about this in this edition of Vital Signs. She said the medical profession’s been exploring the idea of vascular dementia for decades.

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The marathon bombing in Boston and the explosion in the town of West, Texas may seem completely unrelated. But the injuries they cause are remarkably similar. 

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A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine points to a drop in heart disease for people on the Mediterranean Diet. In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Amit Khera, professor of cardiology and director of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology Program, explained why the study’s significant.

Boston hospitals always staff up their emergency rooms on Marathon Day to care for runners with cramps, dehydration and the occasional heart attack.

But Monday, those hospitals suddenly found themselves with more than 100 traumatized patients — many of them with the kinds of injuries seen more often on a battlefield than a marathon.

Like most big-city hospitals these days, Tufts Medical Center runs regular disaster drills, featuring simulated patients smeared with fake blood.

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Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus have arrived earlier than ever before in North Texas. Last week, several traps in Richardson had mosquitoes that tested positive for the virus – last year West Nile didn’t appear until May. 

Note: We've updated the headline on this post for the sake of clarity. To be clear, it's the apple and pear tree blossoms that get sprayed with antibiotics, not the fruit itself.

Apples and especially pears are vulnerable to a nasty bacterial infection called fire blight that, left unchecked, can spread quickly, killing fruit trees and sometimes devastating whole orchards.

Gena Breedlove

It isn’t only NFL superstars who get concussions. It’s high school basketball players, cheerleaders, soccer players, even softball players. More than 300,000 high school students were diagnosed with concussions last year.Still, there’s no gold standard for evaluating or treating concussions in young athletes. This weekend, a group of coaches, parents, patients and doctors are getting together at UT Arlington for a conference on concussions and youth safety.

The Da Vinci surgical robot is now a part of the Texas Health Denton team -- helping remove patients' gallbladders through a small incision right below the navel. There are thousands of da Vinci systems world-wide, and they aren't cheap. The machines cost over one million each, with an additional cost for annual maintenance. Still, the machines give surgeons an enhanced range of motion and ultimately leave the patient with minimal scarring.

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Just last week President Obama announced a pledge of $100 million to a federal brain mapping initiative. It will hopefully zero in on improving care for those with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. John Hart Jr. is the Medical Science Director at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas. His team is working on links between concussion and depression as well as better therapy for veterans with PTSD. In this week’s “Vital Signs,” Dr. Hart weighs in on the mapping program and what it means for patients everywhere.

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It’s estimated more than 159-thousand people will die of lung cancer in 2013. The National Lung Cancer Partnership has a announced a new goal to double the five-year survival rate of the disease by 2022. It’s currently 16 percent. Dr. Joan Schiller, chief of the Hematology and Oncology Department of  UT Southwestern Medical Center, is also President of the Partnership. In this week’s “Vital Signs”, Dr. Schiller explained why survival rates are so low.

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Texas is among states involved in a Department of Agriculture recall of chicken quesadillas and other frozen meals from Rich Products of Buffalo, New York.

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That burrito on the kids menu? Not as healthy as you might have thought. According to a new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, every single children's meal offered at chains such as Chipotle, Panda Express, Dairy Queen, and Hardee's fell short of standards adopted by the center from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutritional recommendations. 

Courtesy Chris Ewin

Ten-minute physicals and health insurance paperwork aren't just frustrating for patients – they're a pain for doctors, too. One of every 10 Texas doctors say they are moving away from accepting insurance and toward a flat fee for coverage. They call it "concierge care," or direct medicine.

More than 4,000 U.S. doctors offer concierge services. That’s 30 percent more than last year. And Texas is a hot zone: at least a dozen doctors have gone concierge in Dallas-Fort Worth alone. Here’s a basic overview.

Allergy shots have long been one of the best available treatments for hay fever, other allergies, and asthma, but they're a pain. In Europe, people have a more pleasant alternative: drops put under the tongue.

That treatment, called sublingual immunotherapy, hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but more and more patients in the U.S. are asking for it.

Huntington's Disease is a hereditary, degenerative brain disorder that affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. Currently, there is no known cure for the disease. A new grant from the National Institutes of Health will provide $1.67 million over five years for research on the disorder at UT Dallas.

By 2030, nearly six million Latinos will be obese, according to The Texas State Demographer’s office. KUT's Veronica Zaragovia reports local communities are trying to raise awareness and shrink waistlines.

As far back as he can remember, George McCann lived in fear. When he was asleep he would have horrific nightmares filled with violent images. When he was awake, he often felt threatened by people, including members of his own family. And when he felt threatened, he would become aggressive, even violent.

George spent his childhood certain that something very bad was going to happen. And when he was 12, it did. His unrelenting fears led to a violent outburst at school. And George landed in a psychiatric hospital.

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It’s one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., but colon cancer's highly preventable if caught early with screening. Yet, for whatever reason, many are apprehensive about colonoscopy - an exam of the colon and rectum. One alternative is virtual colonoscopy. It requires the same laxative and low residue diet beforehand as the conventional procedure. But in this week’s Vital Signs, Dr. Cecelia Brewington of UT Southwestern Medical Center says virtual colonoscopy is less invasive, faster and there’s no sedation.

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Two new health rankings show how Texas fares county by county as well as on the national stage.

Collin County and Denton County are ranked second and third in the entire state for good health by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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It’s been rare in Texas, but the latest so-called superbug resistant to antibiotics has hit more than 200 hospitals across the U-S in a six month period last year.  In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Bill Sutker, chief of infectious diseases of Baylor University Medical Center, explains why  CRE is part of a larger, growing problem.

Find A Food Desert Near You

Mar 13, 2013

Want to know where you can't buy fresh, healthful food? The USDA has the map for you.

The feds' new Food Access Research Atlas lets you find out just where it's difficult to buy broccoli or bananas in counties across the U.S. Forget walking to the store in St. Louis, Minn., where most people live more than a mile from a grocery store. Ditto for Hyde, N.C., and Pushmataha, Okla.

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If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, blue light from various sources – including electronic devices -- might be a problem. Studies suggest even low levels of blue light can delay secretions in the body of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. In this edition of Vital Signs, the scoop on blue light from sleep specialist Dr. John Herman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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The antibiotic-resistant superbug that’s warranted a warning from the Centers for Disease Control has been reported in Texas. But, one North Texas hospital says it’s rare. 

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Aside from the expense and discomfort, the annoying part of getting a dental crown is the time involved – usually two separate visits to complete the process. Two different companies – one of them in North Texas – have created systems using 3D imaging to reduce the crown procedure to one visit total.

How's this for a tough assignment?

A group of Italian researchers forced 21 surgical residents to play video games on a Nintendo Wii for an hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks. Whew!

Then the researchers had the residents perform a simulated keyhole surgery. They found that the gamers performed significantly better than another group of residents who didn't undergo this grueling video game training.

Breast Cancer In Young Women Rising

Feb 27, 2013
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Young women are much less likely than older women to be diagnosed with breast cancer -- but research showing a tripling of advanced breast cancer cases in women under forty is for some doctors, a disturbing trend. 

Should Texas Students Be Required To Learn CPR?

Feb 26, 2013
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When Kylee Shea collapsed to the floor and stopped breathing in a Frisco middle school hallway in September of 2011, teachers rushed into action. The two teachers who revived Shea, who was 12 at the time and had no prior history of heart trouble, were trained in CPR and the use of the school's automatic external defibrillator (AED).  

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