Breakthroughs | KERA News

Breakthroughs

Breakthroughs is a weekly series devoted to the latest innovations in health, science and technology — with a North Texas accent.

Explore special Breakthroughs 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. 

MRI of a brain with Alzheimer's disease
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A radical new vaccine that reduces the two proteins linked to Alzheimer's disease should give the public hope, says the founding director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

UNT

Firewalls, anti-virus software and a whole galaxy of tools are employed to secure our online world. There's a daily, ongoing battle between cybercriminals and the defenders of cyber assets — like Hassan Takabi, a computer science and engineering professor at University of North Texas.

Courtesy of UT Dallas

Post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — is the most common mental health disorder among veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It can also affect anyone who experiences a major life-altering event like a serious accident, physical abuse or sexual assault.

The University of Texas at Dallas has received a $7.4 million grant to study this difficult-to-treat disorder — and test out some potentially life-changing treatments.

Mary Altaffer, File / AP

The popularity of video games has skyrocketed in the last decade. People who used to play at home with their friends can now play games — such as Fortnite, Dota 2 and League of Legends — professionally and often at sold-out convention centers. 

Parde, C. J., Castillo, C., Hill, M. Q., Colon, Y. I., Sankaranarayanan, S., Chen, J. C., and O'Toole, A. J. (2017, May)

The human face conveys our thoughts and emotions, and we seek it out when trying to identify others. It's also a focal point for the future of identification technology. 

Governments, law enforcement and even businesses are interested in being able to identify people at a distance. 

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state.

It's the 10th-leading cause of death, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide in 2016.

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor. That's why researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas are working on a study that combines an intervention program with a personalized app aimed at teenagers.

Courtesy of the University of North Texas

The ability to detect if someone is under the influence of alcohol or some kind of drug is important for many workplaces, for police in keeping intoxicated people off the roads and for hospitals in formulating the right response to a potential overdose.

Courtesy of UT Dallas

A bio-engineering professor at the University of Texas at Dallas has received a half-a-million-dollar grant to further his research into material that could help with human healing. 

Eric Gay / AP

Plans to upload blueprints to the internet for 3D-printed guns are on hold as lawsuits crop up around the country seeking to control their distribution — and as with any new technology, the law is playing catch-up.

Study co-author Maria Nieves Zedeño / School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona

Long before European explorers arrived in the New World, Native American communities used fire to keep warm and to manage the land.

Christopher Roos is an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University and lead author of a new study that looks into how that use of fire affected the ecosystem.

UNT Health Science Center Fort Worth

Losing an arm or leg is devastating, and replacing that missing limb with a prosthetic can be expensive. 3D printing is making it easier to create useable prosthetics quickly and much more cheaply.  

Barbara Woike / AP

With Starbucks and other companies saying they'll eliminate plastic straws, experts are facing a key question: How much of an impact does plastic have on our environment — and on modern life?

LM Otero / AP

To help combat the mental stress that police officers face on the job, the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas has developed a program to help police in Dallas make better decisions.

Brett Chisum / Flickr Creative Commons

Look up into the night sky this July Fourth and you'll certainly see some fireworks, but what goes into making these colorful displays?

Amy Walker is a professor with the University of Texas at Dallas. She has her Ph.D. in chemistry, so she knows a thing or two about the science behind the boom.

Courtesy of UNT Health Science Center

With hot summer days bearing down on North Texas, so are the summer bugs.

Illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S., with more than 640,000 cases reported from 2004 through 2016, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Michael Allen, who leads the Tick-Borne Disease Research Laboratory at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, says there are many reasons for the spike.

Courtesty SMU, UCLA

A new study from Southern Methodist University shows that empathetic people — those who are generally more sensitive to the feelings of others — receive more pleasure from listening to music, and their brains show increased activity in areas associated with social interactions.

Courtesy of Drive.ai

One of the nation's first self-driving car services will be coming to North Texas next month. 

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

In 2015, Parkland Hospital in Dallas became the first major hospital system in the country to screen each and every one of its patients for suicide risk — at each and every visit. In March, the hospital extended those screenings to children as young as 10.

UNT Health Science Center

Studies suggest that Mexican-Americans have an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. They're about 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than non-Hispanic white Americans.

Researchers at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth are trying to find out why.

UT Southwestern

We're learning more about depression and its impact on our daily lives, but there's still a long way to go when it comes to understanding how it affects teenagers, specifically.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi with UT Southwestern Medical Center is leading a program in North Texas schools as part of long-term research to identify, study and treat teenagers with or at risk for depression.

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You may think of pain as just pain. How you experience that pain, though, might depend on whether you're a man or a woman.

Courtesy of Parkland Hospital

At last month’s State of the Homeless address, Cindy Crain, the outgoing president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, confirmed one of the demographic trends that has worried her the most: The homeless in Dallas are getting older and sicker.

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Dallas is warming at a faster rate than any other large city in the country, besides Louisville, Kentucky and Phoenix, according to research conducted for the Texas Trees Foundation.

Courtesy of UT Dallas

Along with our basic needs for nutrition, how we feel can play a role in what we choose to eat and how much we eat. A new study from the University of Texas at Dallas examines the reasons behind "emotional eating" with a focus on kids and how dietary habits develop in early childhood. 

Courtesy of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission

A left-leaning grassroots organization called the East Dallas Persistent Women released a report last week finding that Healthy Texas Women — a state program intended to provide low-cost women’s health services — is riddled with errors on its website.

Centers For Disease Control

Hospitals in Texas and across the country are doing a better job these days in stopping the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in health care settings.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these so-called "superbugs" still kill up to 23,000 people a year.

bakdc / Shutterstock

This weekend, students will be marching in Dallas and across the country, calling for new laws to reduce gun violence.

Criminologist Nadine Connell is leading a research team that's trying to get a better grasp on how guns have affected K-12 schools. The University of Texas at Dallas researchers are creating a database of all school shootings in America since 1990.

SMU

Minecraft is a popular video game that's sort of like virtual Lego. Players find and build stuff by themselves, or online with friends.

It's a simple formula that's attracted millions of fans — and Southern Methodist University professors.

Shutterstock

The debate over government access to personal and private information dates back decades. But it took center stage after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, when Apple refused to open a backdoor into an assailant's encrypted cell phone for FBI investigators.

The agency ultimately paid a hacker to unlock the phone instead.

Courtesy of UNT Health Science Center

Advancements in medicine have helped improve the overall health of Americans over the past several decades, but they haven’t benefited everyone.

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