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. 

Researchers in San Antonio are recruiting people with mild cognitive impairment for a nationwide study to see if nicotine improves symptoms.

The study is called the MIND study -- Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing.

Dr. Stacia' Alexander and Lakeita Roberts are licensed professional counselors practicing in Dallas. Both are listed in the Therapy for Black Girls online directory.
Syeda Hasan / KERA News

Directories of therapists of color are becoming increasingly popular, like Therapy for Black Girls and the National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network. This trend seems to signal a growing openness toward mental health care among minority communities. Still, Dallas counselors say the work isn't finished.

Medicaid in Texas
Todd Wiseman

Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah voters approved a Medicaid expansion through ballot initiatives. Now Texas legislators have filed bills for a vote over whether the state should expand coverage for the joint federal-state health insurance program.

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The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has released a new set of exercise guidelines. It reflects the agency’s new way of thinking about exercise.

Bexar County is seeing more babies born with withdrawal symptoms related to their mothers' opioid addictions. One way hospitals help these babies overcome these often painful symptoms during their first weeks is to recruit volunteers to just cuddle them, touch them and love them. But because of the recent opioid epidemic, there are too many babies and not enough baby cuddlers.

Killer whales, Japanese aphids and Homo sapiens they're among the few organisms whose females live on long past the age of reproduction.

Many vaccines and some medicines, such as insulin, have to be delivered by injection. That's a pain, both for patients and for health care providers. But two groups of researchers are trying to put some of these medications in pill form to avoid the needle.

Trump administration health officials are spelling out their ambitious plan to stop the spread of HIV in the U.S. within the next 10 years.

The plan would target 48 counties where the rate of HIV spread is the highest, along with Washington, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seven states with high rates of HIV in rural areas would also be targeted, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi.

"Some people dislike diagnoses, disagreeably calling them boxes and labels," writes Esmé Weijun Wang in the first essay of her new book, The Collected Schizophrenias." [B]ut I've always found comfort in preexisting conditions. I like to know that I'm not pioneering an inexplicable condition."

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, listens as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, gives his State of the State Address in the House Chamber, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press

Texas Governor Greg Abbott made mental health care one of the primary themes of his State of the State address Tuesday, including more student mental health screenings.

In Texas, a growing number of patients are turning to a little-known state mediation program to deal with unexpected hospital bills.

The bills in question often arrive in patients' mailboxes with shocking balances that run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When patients, through no fault of their own, are treated outside their insurers' network of hospitals, the result can be a surprise bill. Other times, insurers won't agree to pay what the hospital charges, and the patient is on the hook for the balance.

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Using artificial sweeteners is supposed to help avoid health problems related to obesity, but the latest study of them doesn’t make clear if non-sugar sweeteners really help you – or maybe even hurt you.

This image from video provided by Michelob shows a frame from their 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. The ad features the actress Zoe Kravitz using techniques for autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.
Michelob via Associated Press

A new Super Bowl commercial aims to calm frenzied football fans with oddly relaxing images of actress Zoe Kravitz whispering into a pair of microphones and softly tapping on a bottle.

The beer ad already has drawn more than 10 million views and stands to expose a vast audience to an internet craze known as ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response.

It's cold outside, you're sick and all you want to do is curl up under the covers until you feel better.

In fact, the need for sleep can be so strong when we're sick that this may be all we can do.

The use of e-cigarettes is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke, according to research that is scheduled to be presented Feb. 6 at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Honolulu.

Concern around the health effects of e-cigarette use has grown in recent years, fueled by a surge in their popularity and a belief that they're safe alternatives to normal cigarettes.

A Texas Biomedical Research Institute scientist is helping develop a test for the Zika virus that has been called “a lab on a chip.”


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Shortly after a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a 40-point plan for improving school safety, which included calls for boosting mental health services for students. 

Denton County Public Health

Denton County's in year two of a three-year plan to improve coordination of health information and services to its population. 

Dr. Matt Richardson, Director of Denton County Public Health, says the Community Health Improvement plan was not focused on the quality of care, but rather providing access to a population of nearly 900,000 people.

The percentage of outpatient medical visits that led to a benzodiazepine prescription doubled from 2003 to 2015, according to a study published Friday. And about half those prescriptions came from primary care physicians.

Congressman Joaquin Castro made an appeal to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday, asking him to look into possible links between post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia.


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.

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