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.

Charts at UNT Health Science Center's Human Movement Performance Lab.
Credit Stephanie Kuo / 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. 

From Texas Standard:

Between SpaceX moving its rocket manufacturing to Texas from California, and the so-called super blood wolf moon, you may have missed this bit of space news: Texas-based astronomer Robert Kennicutt will be leading the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. Every decade, the study mandated by Congress helps set set priorities for what scientists will study in the coming years in the realm of astronomy and astrophysics.

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About 10,000 people a year will experience an aortic dissection – a tear in the body’s biggest blood vessel. It can be life-threatening, but it’s also possible to survive and to avoid in some cases.

There could be fewer feet thumping on treadmills in the coming days and weeks, as Americans weigh whether to bail on the gym — and their New Year’s fitness resolutions.

Jennipher Walters, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of Fit Bottomed Girls, tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson that falling off the wagon can be understandable as that hopeful, post-holiday glow begins to fade.

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

A special celestial event is on the calendar for this Sunday night and experts are already raving:

"A full 62 luxurious minutes of totality," says Sky and Telescope Magazine.

"The Only Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019," promises NASA.

Updated Jan. 18.

While public health experts are working furiously to quell the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers in San Antonio have made a discovery that might be a key to improving treatment.


Saturn is famous for its lovely rings, but a new study suggests the planet has spent most of its 4.5 billion years without them.

That's because the rings are likely only 10 million to 100 million years old, according to a newly published report in the journal Science that's based on findings from NASA's Cassini probe.

Pain is a complicated experience. Our skin and muscles sense it, just like they sense softness or warmth. But unlike other sensations, the experience of pain is distinctly unpleasant.

Pain has to hurt for us to pay attention to it, and avoid hurting ourselves further.

But for people in chronic pain, the pain has largely lost its purpose. It just hurts.

While it has long been understood how nerves signal pain to the brain, scientists haven't known how the brain adds a layer of unpleasantness.

A team of biologists announced this week they’d found three new species of rare salamanders in Central Texas. The discovery of any new species is big news for science, but in Texas – where the fate of salamanders and people are often linked – it could also set up a new fight over endangered species protections.  

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The American Psychological Association sparked a fierce debate last week when it issued its first-ever guidelines for psychologists working with men and boys. The list of 10 guidelines suggests that men who ascribe to "traditional masculinity" may suffer negative consequences to their mental and physical health.

Courtesy of the University of North Texas

There’s an ongoing shortage of doctors in Texas overall, especially in rural areas. UNT’s College of Science has created a fast track program to help fill the void.

From Texas Standard:

In the 1950s and '60s, the U.S. battled the Soviet Union in the race to conquer space. American presidents told the nation that beating Russia was a both a scientific and a national security imperative. Today, there’s a new kind of technology race underway that most people have never even heard about. And the stakes are high.

When Kirstin Herbst found out she was pregnant last winter, she and her fiancé were overjoyed. But when she went to the doctor for her first ultrasound, she found out she was having a miscarriage.

Her doctor prescribed a medication called misoprostol, which helps the miscarriage to pass. But the misoprostol didn't work right away, and Herbst needed to take another dose.

Herbst was optimistic when she became pregnant again this past summer. When she went in for an ultrasound, she learned she was miscarrying again.

From Texas Standard:

Life on earth requires certain elements. Humans need oxygen, for example, among many other things. But as we increasingly explore other parts of our universe, researchers are trying to determine whether the signs of life we take for granted here on our planet might be different elsewhere.

If you’re a new parent trying to communicate with your infant, you may have tried baby sign language: specialized gestures babies can learn to communicate words like “hungry,” “thirsty” and “more.”

There’s a huge market for books, classes and smartphone apps that teach baby sign language and claim that it can speed up spoken language development — and even boost a baby’s IQ. But there’s not very much research to support those claims.

Texas has reported the most cases nationwide of a mysterious polio-like illness in 2018.

The Department of State Health Services said there were 27 cases of acute flaccid myelitis throughout the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Ohio had the next highest number of cases with 12.


Losing weight one to two pounds a week allows your body to adjust easier to the change.
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For many, a list of New Year’s resolutions tends to include losing weight. Before considering diets, gyms, expensive equipment and tech gadgets, a local dietitian offers some sensible ideas to help with weight reduction.

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When it's cold outside, alcohol might feel like a way to fend off the winter chill, but health care experts warn alcohol and cold weather can be a bad combination if you’re not careful.

How The Federal Shutdown Is Affecting Health Programs

Jan 3, 2019

There seems to be no end in sight for the current partial government shutdown, the third since the beginning of the Trump administration.

For the vast majority of the federal government's public health efforts, though, it's business as usual.

When Toni and Jim Hoy adopted their son Daniel through the foster care system, he was an affectionate toddler. They did not plan to give him back to the state of Illinois, ever.

"Danny was this cute, lovable little blond-haired, blue-eyed baby," Jim says.

Toni recalls times Daniel would reach over, put his hands on her face and squish her cheeks. "And he would go, 'You pretty, Mom,' " Toni says. "Oh my gosh, he just melted my heart when he would say these very loving, endearing things to me."

Andrea Hernandez ended up in a McAllen hospital after a drunken driver hit the car she was in.

“I basically got amnesia because of how hard I hit my head,” the 22-year-old says.

Like many families in Texas, Hernandez’s family is from Mexico. Her father speaks only Spanish, so she says it was valuable that her doctor was from Mexico and spoke Spanish, too.

The holiday season is all about cute. You've got those ads with adorable children and those movies about baby animals with big eyes.

But when people encounter too much cuteness, the result can be something scientists call "cute aggression."

The Health Of The World In 2018, By The Numbers

Dec 28, 2018

At year's end, global health numbers offer reason for both hope and despair.

There is one strong positive note. An overriding public health finding is that people are living longer. "If that's not a bottom line reason for optimism," says Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "I don't know what is."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than a quarter of all Hispanic children are obese, and a San Antonio researcher has received a $3 million grant to figure out why.

 


Which Goats and Soda stories were most popular this year?

You loved the stories that looked to the developing world that offered insights into the way we live our lives: how to sit without hurting your back; whether it's OK to sleep with your baby.

KERA / Miguel Perez

A six-person team at Texas Woman's University in Denton designed a special type of shirt that targets lower back pain in astronauts. The students created the garment for NASA's Design Challenge Showcase, a competition that pushes students to solve issues related to space travel. 

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It’s supposed to be a time of joy, but the holiday season can be stressful for some people. However, food, of all things, can help manage that stress.

Like many a cockamamie idea, this one was so crazy, it just might work.

But then again, the Bassler microbiology lab at Princeton University was built on crazy ideas that proved right, like that bacteria talk to one another, says Bonnie Bassler, director of the lab, chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Zhijian "James" Chen
UT Southwestern Medical Center

A UT Southwestern Medical Center biochemist was recently named the winner of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his discovery of an enzyme that helps defend against infections and cancers.

UNT Health Science Center

UNT Health Science Center is conducting the first study of a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease in a primary care setting.

Jodi Roberts of Plano incorporates gongs into the sound therapy she offers clients.
Courtesy Jodi Roberts

Kris Sands struggled with fibromylagia for seven years. Doctors prescribed medication that treated the symptoms but not the problem. She looked into Pilates and yoga, but those weren’t the right fit either. Then she turned to something called sound therapy.

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