Health

Heart Trouble in your Future?

A prominent cardiologist calls it “one of the worst examples of medicine gone wild.” Other physicians say it is a useful tool when used in the right patient for the right reason. Still others think it’s somewhat underutilized in healthcare. Not many imaging screening tests have generated such differences of opinion. The object of this …

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More Than Skin Deep

As a teen growing up in Mt. Washington, Jessica Vega Rogowicz remembers her dad being diagnosed with skin cancer. He went to the doctor to have it removed and came home with a Band-Aid on his nose. Because he had basal cell carcinoma, which rarely spreads beyond the skin, that was pretty much the end …

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Laugh Out Loud

David Russell isn’t a stand-up comedian. But without much effort, he regularly gets a room full of people laughing for a good 20 minutes or so. Russell is among a handful of certified laughter yoga leaders in the Pittsburgh area. A laugh is often the response he gets when he introduces his line of work. …

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Catching the Fall

A broken bone early in life is typically painful and a nuisance. Late in life, it can be devastating. “Among the elderly, bone fractures—particularly in the hip, wrist and back—can lead to long-term disability and death,” says Jane Cauley, professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. About 1-in-2 women …

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Can Venture Capital Help Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?

In 1988, Jeffrey L. Morby left American Express to join the management team tapped to rescue the nearly bankrupt Mellon Bank. After helping turn Mellon around, he retired at 59, but Morby has hardly been wiling away the time. He and his wife, Jacqueline, have been putting their corporate and venture capital acumen to use …

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The Cholesterol Conundrum

Cholesterol was first discovered in 1769, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that scientists linked these oily molecules in our blood to atherosclerosis—when artery walls become thick with plaque, potentially triggering a heart attack or stroke. Since then, many have devoted their lives to understanding cholesterol. It’s a research subject that has led …

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Ancient Dig

Twelve thousand years ago, a Native American hunter left a flint spear point at a campsite beneath an overhanging rock along Cross Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River some 29 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The three-inch by one-inch point was a re-sharpened remnant of a larger spear or arrow head. But the wear and …

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Insurance innovations

Ask someone about their health insurance plan and you wouldn’t expect to hear, “I’m having a great experience.” Health insurance is expensive and difficult to understand. And in the Pittsburgh region, many have, not surprisingly, grown tired of the very public battle between the area’s largest insurer and largest provider—Highmark and UPMC. But this very …

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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

The headlines have been frightening. CNN says, “Sitting for hours can shave years off life.” Men’s Health magazine declared in bold type, “Why your desk job is slowly killing you.” Google “sitting disease” and the first link is juststand.org, where anyone can download a free “info graphic” featuring a skeleton typing away at a desk. …

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Genomic Stimulus

Not long ago, one of the nation’s most dreaded diseases was polio, paralyzing and sometimes killing its victims. Fortunately, polio proved no match for medicine. Just as polio reached its peak in 1952 with 57,000 new cases, a University of Pittsburgh team, led by Dr. Jonas Salk, was testing a vaccine. Soon, polio all but …

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DNA Decoding: An Economic Driver

Mapping the entire human DNA blueprint was ultimately done to advance medicine, but it has had a bonus impact: giving a jump start to a stagnating economy. A May 2011 report by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice of Columbus, Ohio, said the $3.8 billion federal investment in the Human Genome Project from 1988 to 2003 drove …

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Healthful Discoveries

We brush to stave off cavities and bad breath. But it may even help us avoid major diseases. Research shows that the plaque build-up in our mouths may contribute to plaque build-up in our brains and heart arteries. In a study published in BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal), British researchers found that …

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Salty Debate

Salt is essential to life. The sodium found in salt regulates the heartbeat and the body’s balance of fluids. Once known as “white gold,” salt helped establish civilization with the discovery of its food-preserving ability. Roman soldiers were paid in salt (from which the expression “worth one’s salt” is thought to derive). A few centuries ago, …

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Shall We Dance?

Don Shepherd may have stumbled upon the closest thing to the fountain of youth. While millions of Americans—and Steelers fans—tuned in to watch Hines Ward glide and smile his way across the dance floor in “Dancing with the Stars,” Shepherd was leading his own dance partner. The 58-year-old Peters software salesman took up ballroom dancing …

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The Pittsburgh Project

The year is 2020. You’re driving home from work, listening to your favorite satellite radio station. An announcer interrupts with breaking news: Smallpox has broken out in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of patients are flooding hospitals, with untold more infected. The public is panicked. Local officials are scrambling to maintain control. Everything points to a terrorist …

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Pasteur’s Quadrant

Among scientific researchers, you’re in the zone if you can create something that falls into what is known as Pasteur’s Quadrant. Back when the National Academy of Science was getting organized, its president, Vannevar Bush, developed a methodology for allocating federal funding by classifying research as either basic or applied. Basic research seeks to increase the …

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The End of Smallpox

There are a lot of reasons why people believe Dr. D.A. Henderson was the best person to lead the successful effort to eradicate smallpox from the planet in the 1960s and 1970s. Usually they revolve around his intellect (unquestionably world class), his training (schooled in “shoe leather epidemiology” by his mentor) or his style of …

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Planetary Hollywood

First the lights dim. In the darkness, you feel the intense drumbeat and techno-pop rhythms of the synthesizer pounding deep in your gut. Next a fiery, red globe materializes above you like a cosmic disco ball of galactic proportions. Look left and a futuristic spacecraft emerges from the solar system beyond. It begins to circle …

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Moving Beyond Mayview

When the state Department of Welfare announced last year that it would close Mayview State Hospital by Dec. 31, 2008, officials explained what would happen to the remaining 200 patients and said the closure would allow patients to receive community-based care. But lost in the desire to look forward was any look back at the …

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The Jet Set

Amadeo Marcos was the first surgeon to take a piece of liver from a healthy living donor and successfully transplant it into an unrelated critically ill patient. In the nine years since, he’s done more of these complex surgeries than anyone. Topping his vitae is his current position, chief of the transplant division at the …

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Death cycle

In 2004, the region’s two largest hospital systems sought to redraw the map of Pennsylvania. Although their hospitals, clinics and headquarters all sit in and around Allegheny County, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny Health System asked Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, to identify them as a …

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It’s Pay Dirt

Graham Hatfull, Ph.D., is clearly pleased when presented with a film canister brimming with soil dug from a Penn Hills back yard. Common, every day dirt. An odd gift, to be sure, but one often suggested to anyone meeting the head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Biological Sciences for the first time. “Beautiful,” …

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