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. 

James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By now many people in North Texas have heard of the Zika virus, but few have firsthand experience. Dr. David Vanderpool does. Vanderpool was raised and educated in Dallas and has seen the toll the disease is taking south of the border, in the poorest country of the Americas – Haiti. He says whether or not the Zika virus spreads to the U.S., we need to be paying close attention.

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Lead contamination caused a crisis with the water supply in Flint, Michigan. But the CDC says at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead.

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Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas hopes to become one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to transplant a uterus from one woman to another.

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Texas is an epicenter for human trafficking. Recently, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton established a new unit of attorneys and investigators focused on combating human trafficking. Each year, thousands of adults and children are trafficked through the state and many end up living in cities like Dallas and Houston. It turns out some victims are walking into hospitals, and some doctors believe these visits are a window of opportunity to help them escape.

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At some point, many of us will have a case of heartburn that can be easily fixed. However, Dr. Christian Mayorga of Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center explains why heartburn is not always something to take lightly. 

As researchers have searched for ways to explain the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S., many have posited that a child's race or ethnicity alone can put them at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Kim Eagle, a professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan, was skeptical of this thinking. His hunch was that poverty was a much more important part of the equation.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

There is no treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It’s a rare and fatal genetic condition that progressively weakens all muscles, including the heart. But scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center have successfully used a gene editing tool to halt the disease in young mice.

When most little boys were running up and down stairs, Ben Dupree was using his arms to pull himself up the wood banister in his home in University Park. His mom, Debbie, knew something was wrong.

 

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KERA examines common health issues in our series Vital Signs.

In this edition, a problem common to many – weight gain. A possible solution may lie in how much you sleep. 

Dr. Ryan Hays, Director of Sleep Medicine at Parkland Hospital System and Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, explains how one affects the other.

The Longest Swim

Any day now, Texas swimmer Ben Lecomte will plunge into the Pacific Ocean off a Tokyo beach towards San Francisco. He wants to become the first person to swim across the Pacific. He’s already the first person to free swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Although nearly four million people a year sustain concussions, there’s still a lot doctors don't know about them, including Dr. Munro Cullum.  The neuropsychologist is one of the researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center leading a study of several hundred people to eventually come up with better treatment for concussion. 

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The Forest Park Medical Center campuses were supposed to be more like spas than hospitals.  And they were —  from the hand cut stone and sculptures to the lavish trees and fancy menu.

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Many often associate concussion with contact sports like football. But Dr. Benjamin Newman, a neurosurgeon with Methodist Health System, says a blow to the head in almost any activity can lead to a concussion - even kids riding those new bikes they got for Christmas.

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Some good news for coffee drinkers.

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A SpaceX rocket has launched 11 satellites into space – watch the launch in the videos below.

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Choosing-poorly designed toys or toys that aren’t age-appropriate for your child can lead to more harm than fun.  

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Toys can do more than entertain. Priscila Caçola, assistant professor of kinesiology in the UT Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation, has published research showing how specific toys and items in the home can help children develop motor skills.

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KERA looks at real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs. In this edition: all that rich or sweet food we tend eat more of at holiday time.

Healthcare.gov

The White House is challenging Dallas to beat out 19 other communities in reducing the number of people without health insurance. If the city wins, it would get a visit from the President. The deadline to sign up for 2016 health insurance plans on healthcare.gov is Dec. 15th. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

It’s common to train service dogs to help veterans with physical disabilities. But how about helping them with post traumatic stress disorder? The Veterans Administration is launching a major study to find out what effect specially-trained service dogs can have on a veterans ability to cope with life after service. Veterans who already rely on service dogs say the research should have been done years ago.

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A recent study found diverticulitis has been on the rise in this country since the late 1990s. It now accounts for about 300,000 admissions each year for inpatient care.

Dr. Christian Mayorga, a gastroenterologist with Parkland Hospital System, explains this colon problem that can cause pain, obstruction and fever. 

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It can be tricky to pin down a patent troll.

 

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Dr. Donna Persaud, ​chief of Pediatric Community Medicine at Parkland Hospital System, talks about potential problems from the types of soap we use – especially anti-bacterial soap.

Gil Gillam, artist and attorney with Gillam & Smith LLP in Marshall, Texas.

East Texas is known for its Piney Woods, Caddo Lake, maybe for sweet potatoes. It’s also the patent lawsuit capitol of the country. More patent infringement cases are brought to Eastern District courts than anywhere else. There’s pressure to root out the so-called “patent trolls”.

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We examine real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs. In this episode, dementia.

Actor and comedian Robin Williams was being treated for Parkinson’s Disease when he committed suicide in 2014, but the autopsy showed signs of Lewy Body Dementia.

Dr. Angela Bentle, a geriatrics specialist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, talked about the often misdiagnosed disorder.

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Doctors across the country will be trying out a new treatment for traumatic brain injury. UT Southwestern, the National Institutes of Health and other partners announced today that they’ll study a new drug that could help stop bleeding in the brain.

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An agency within the World Health Organization recently concluded eating processed or cured meats like bacon or hot dogs – as well as red meat – can lead to colon cancer.

The Director of the Master of Clinical Nutrition--Coordinated Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center says not quite. Dr. Jo Ann Carson has researched ties between food and cancer for decades. In this edition of "Vital Signs," she explains why the report did not surprise her.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

For the first time since it opened in 1790, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is expanding outside of Washington, D.C. The agency – which has a team of more than 8,000 patent examiners – has established regional offices in four cities across the United States, including Dallas.

 

Steve Jennings / Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize

Over the weekend, a UT Southwestern geneticist won one of science’s biggest awards.

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Manufacturers say the flu vaccine for this season is much more effective than last year’s. However, two new studies suggest flu vaccines in general may not work as well if you take statins.

In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the studies aren't definitive, but the results are provocative.

Doctors in Austin are trying to urgently match five-year-old Leland with a new kidney. He’s on dialysis, and in the highest and most urgent category of patients needing a new organ.

His situation is an example of the pressing need for organ donors in Texas and across the U.S.


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