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. 

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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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A new government-funded study published in the online journal Neurology concluded the number of people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's Disease could almost triple by 2050 without some form of prevention or cure. In this week’s Vital Signs, Dr. Bassem Elsawy, a geriatric specialist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, discusses the reasons why and whether society's prepared for the increase.

Cracking The Code To Create Special Blood-Forming Cells

Feb 24, 2013
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In the near future, scientists may be able to reproduce blood-forming stem cells in a laboratory. That could save the lives of thousands of people suffering from diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. The Dallas doctor who's brought us closer to this reality published the breakthrough in stem cell research in the national science journal Nature.

Lauren Silverman

The job hunt is complicated enough for most high school and college graduates. But for the growing number of young people on the autism spectrum, it is a daunting challenge. Nationwide 90 percent of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed. Despite the obstacles these people face trying to find work, there's a natural landing place: the tech industry.

Amelia Schabel graduated from high school five years ago. She had good grades and enrolled in community college. But it was too stressful. After less than a month she was back at home, doing nothing.

Texas spent $38.99 per capita on mental health care, making it 49th in the country for 2012. The Texas Tribune's Brandi Grissom says the dearth of spending on mental health resources has converted jails, emergency rooms and homeless shelters into "de facto asylums." Today she kicks off a series, called “Trouble in Mind,” about mental health in Texas’ criminal justice system. And tonight, KERA airs “Erasing the Stigma: Mental Illness and the Search for Solutions.” The public forum was presented by KERA, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and will air at 7 pm on KERA-Channel 13.

Hospitals across the country are turning to the neighborhood pharmacy to keep patients well after they return home from the hospital. The federal government began penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates in October, and although Texas hospitals are doing slightly better than the nation overall at preventing readmissions, some are looking to partner with pharmacies such as Walgreens to provide support for patients and follow-up care after hospital stays. Scott & White Healthcare, based in central Texas, recently announced its partnership with Walgreens.

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An estimated one in five young people in the U.S. suffers from a diagnosable, treatable mental illness. Yet, most get little or no help because of we don’t recognize the signs and symptoms. Vanita Halliburton is working to change that through a foundation named after her son. She explained why and talked about the signs of mental illness in young people in this edition of “Vital Signs”.

When the X-ray was invented, people clamored to get one. Not for any medical reason, but just to see what was typically hidden inside their bodies.

Something like that seems to be happening with DNA sequencing technology. First it was companies offering to sequence people's genomes. Now it's learning all about your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living on and in your body.

Ash Wednesday, To-Go

Feb 13, 2013
JoAnne Pounds / Oak Lawn United Methodist Church

Like some ashes with your train ticket? How about with your hot chocolate? “Ashes To Go” is one way to participate in Ash Wednesday without even entering a church. Members of Oak Lawn United Methodist in Dallas decided to leave the confines of the church for the start of Lent -- the forty day period before Easter -- and give folks the telltale Ash Wednesday forehead treatment in some untraditional locations. 

A common vitamin supplement appears to dramatically reduce a woman's risk of having a child with autism.

A study of more than 85,000 women in Norway found that those who started taking folic acid before getting pregnant were about 40 percent less likely to have a child who developed the disorder, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

When Spc. Brad Gotschall returned from Iraq to Breckenridge, west of Fort Worth, he had been blown up by an IED and suffered broken limbs, but he says it was problems with his teeth that left him in pain. WFAA reports oral deterioration could be related to stresses soldiers face in combat. Problem is, the VA only pays for dental care under certain circumstances.

Lupus: A Cruel Mystery

Feb 11, 2013
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Some call it the cruel mystery. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can strike any part of the body, but the wide range of symptoms can be easily mistaken for something else. In this segment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Tessie Holloway, president of the Lupus Foundation of America’s North Texas chapter, discusses the disease and the need for greater awareness.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

  The battle to help mentally ill people is personal for one state legislator.  Representative Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, has bipolar disorder.

This week he participated in a mental health forum, Erasing the Stigma, which was sponsored by KERA, The Dallas Morning News, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Then Rep. Coleman sat down to share his story.

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Why is there still such a stigma about mental illness? How can the community work together to better identify and help young adults struggling with it?

That's the topic of the public forum "Erasing The Stigma: Mental Illness and the Search for Solutions."

Take a look back at our live blog. Audio will be available on KERA News soon; look for video later in the week. And KERA-Channel 13 will air an edited version of the forum on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

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