Health

Health
3:03 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Scientists Give Genetically Modified Organisms A Safety Switch

Scientists reprogrammed the common bacterium E. coli so it requires a synthetic amino acid to live.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 7:37 pm

Researchers at Harvard and Yale have used some extreme gene-manipulation tools to engineer safety features into designer organisms.

This work goes far beyond traditional genetic engineering, which involves moving a gene from one organism to another. In this case, they're actually rewriting the language of genetics.

The goal is to make modified organisms safer to use, and also to protect them against viruses that can wreak havoc on pharmaceutical production.

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Health
2:59 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Tax Preparers Get Ready To Be Bearers Of Bad News About Health Law

Lou Graham prepares taxes in Connecticut and is ready to answer client questions about the Affordable Care Act.
Jeff Cohen WNPR

Originally published on Sat January 24, 2015 4:17 pm

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

"This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way," Smith says.

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Health
2:06 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

From Detox To Elimination Diets, Skipping Sugar May Be The Best Bet

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 7:32 pm

When it comes to detox diets, we totally get the appeal.

Who's not drawn to the idea of flushing all the toxins out of our bodies — a sort of spring cleaning of our insides?

And yes, several years back, I even remember trying — if only for a day — the trendy cayenne-pepper liquid cleanse (as seen in this Mindy Kaling clip from The Office) as part of a cleansing/detox diet.

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Health
1:22 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Why I Left The ER To Run Baltimore's Health Department

Dr. Leana Wen became Baltimore's health commissioner on Thursday.
Mark Dennis City of Baltimore

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 8:56 am

When I was just beginning my third year as a medical student, I learned an important lesson about what matters most in health.

It was a typical summer afternoon in St. Louis, with the temperature and humidity both approaching 100. My patient was a woman in her 40s who was being admitted to the hospital because her lungs were filling with fluid, a complication of kidney failure. She had missed all three dialysis appointments that week.

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Health
1:15 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Trying To Lose Weight? Your Environment, Mindset May Need Work First

Sure, these Buffalo-chicken-and-kale-stuffed mushrooms look tasty, but they aren't the giant bowl of salt and corn syrup your brain really, really wants.
Matthew Mead AP

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 7:51 am

This January, either you or someone you know is probably trying to lose some weight. Either you or that person probably will fail. In fact, only 77 percent of people maintain their resolutions for a single week, and only 19 percent last two years (some claim the success rate might be as low as 8 percent).

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Health
9:15 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Health Insurance Prices: Highest In Alaska, Lowest In Sun Belt

Alaska: home to Denali National Park and Preserve, grizzly bears and some very pricey health insurance.
Universal Images Group UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 8:56 am

In health insurance prices, as in the weather, Alaska and the Sun Belt are extremes. This year Alaska is the most expensive health insurance market for people who do not get coverage through their employers, while Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz., are among the very cheapest.

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Health
11:26 am
Wed January 14, 2015

New Apps Give Teens Easier, Persistent Access To Mental Help

Sgt. Mark Miranda, a public affairs specialist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, demonstrates the use of a program in July 2011 that was designed to help calm symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. A new class of apps is offering more sophisticated mental health help to struggling teens, including emergency, 24/7 connection to counselors.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 6:35 am

Twelve years into a struggle with bulimia and anorexia, Jessie Joachim says she still feels guilty whenever she tells her therapist out loud that she has purged a meal.

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Health
3:22 am
Mon January 12, 2015

The Doctor Who Championed Hand-Washing And Briefly Saved Lives

Semmelweis considered scientific inquiry part of his mission as a physician.
De Agostini Picture Library Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 10:49 am

This is the story of a man whose ideas could have saved a lot of lives and spared countless numbers of women and newborns' feverish and agonizing deaths.

You'll notice I said "could have."

The year was 1846, and our would-be hero was a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis.

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Health
3:38 am
Wed January 7, 2015

A Bed Of Mouse Cells Helps Human Cells Thrive In The Lab

Dr. Richard Schlegel and postdoctoral fellow Nancy Palechor-Ceron use a microscope to look at human epithelial cells growing on mouse fibroblasts at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Lauren Wolkoff/Georgetown University

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 12:35 pm

A drug that is used worldwide to treat malaria is now being tested as a treatment for cervical cancer. This surprising idea is the result of a new laboratory technique that could have far-reaching uses.

Our story starts with Dr. Richard Schlegel at Georgetown University Medical Center. He's best known for inventing the Gardasil vaccine to protect women from cervical cancer.

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Health
3:10 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Tight Control Of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It's Tough

Even with the best available technology, keeping blood sugar under control requires constant vigilance.
Mark Hatfield iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 8:06 am

Here's more evidence that for people with Type 1 diabetes, strict blood sugar control matters – in this case, it actually reduces the risk of early death. But another study reveals the grim reality: Those with the condition still die about a decade sooner than those without.

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Health
3:02 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Many Insurers Don't Cover Drugs For Weight Loss

Belviq, a weight-loss drug from Arena Pharmaceuticals, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012. With the agency's approval of Saxenda in December, there are four new weight-loss pills available.
Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc/Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 8:07 am

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription medicine the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012. But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, there's a good chance their insurer won't cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.

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Health
11:53 am
Mon January 5, 2015

Sleeping Near A Smartphone Can Disturb A Child's Rest

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 4:17 pm

The last thing my 11-year-old does before she goes to sleep is put her iPod on the nightstand. And that could mean less sleep for her, researchers say.

There's plenty of evidence that children who have televisions in their rooms get less sleep. This is one of the first studies to look at whether having a small screen like an iPod or smartphone in the room also affects rest.

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Health
3:33 am
Mon January 5, 2015

What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits

U.S. soldiers at Long Binh base in South Vietnam line up to give urine samples at a heroin detection center before departing for the United States. About 20 percent of soldiers said they were addicts, but most didn't continue drug use back home.
AP

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 4:15 pm

It's a tradition as old as New Year's: making resolutions. We will not smoke, or sojourn with the bucket of mint chocolate chip. In fact, we will resist sweets generally, including the bowl of M&M's that our co-worker has helpfully positioned on the aisle corner of his desk. There will be exercise, and the learning of a new language.

It is resolved.

So what does science know about translating our resolve into actual changes in behavior? The answer to this question brings us — strangely enough — to a story about heroin use in Vietnam.

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Health
1:22 pm
Sat January 3, 2015

Rural Doctor Launches Startup To Ease Pain Of Dying Patients

Palliative medicine physician Michael Fratkin gets off a plane after visiting a patient on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. He's recently launched a startup to support this kind of work.
April Dembosky KQED

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 4:16 pm

Dr. Michael Fratkin is getting a ride to work today from a friend.

"It's an old plane. Her name's 'Thumper,' " says pilot Mark Harris, as he revs the engine of the tiny 1957 Cessna 182.

Fratkin is an internist and specialist in palliative medicine. He's the guy who comes in when the cancer doctors first deliver a serious diagnosis.

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Health
9:48 am
Sat January 3, 2015

Needle Exchange Program Creates Black Market In Clean Syringes

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 3:54 pm

On Friday afternoons, several dozen people line up in the narrow hallway of Prevention Point Philadelphia. The men and women, all ages, hold paper and plastic bags full of used syringes.

"We obviously have a space challenge, but people come in, they drop off their used syringes and they ask for what they need," says Silvana Mazzella, the director of programs at the service center for injection drug users.

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Health
8:00 am
Sat January 3, 2015

U.N.'s Anthony Banbury: Zero Cases Of Ebola Is The Only Option

Anthony Banbury (second from left) just completed his final tour of West Africa before stepping down as the head of U.N.'s Ebola mission.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sat January 3, 2015 11:59 am

As the new year begins, the Ebola virus continues its deadly spread in West Africa. More than 20,000 are infected and nearly 8,000 have died throughout the region. The number of victims keeps climbing in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and dozens of new Ebola cases in Liberia this week mark a setback after recent improvements.

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Health
4:19 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Researchers Create Artificial Organs That Fit In Your Hand

Postdoctoral researcher Jennifer Foulke-Abel holds the gut-on-a-chip inside the lab at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 4:16 pm

Great balls of cells! Scientists are developing mock human organs that can fit in the palm of your hand.

These organs-on-a-chip are designed to test drugs and help understand the basics of how organs function when they are healthy and when they are diseased.

For instance, you have your gut-on-a-chip being developed at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It's a high-tech approach to dealing with a scourge of the low-tech world.

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Health
11:28 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Doctors Not Cutting Back On Radiation For Breast Cancer Patients

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 6:35 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

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Health
3:57 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Big Question For 2015: Will The Supreme Court Rule On Abortion?

Protesters rally outside the Supreme Court during the March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 1:56 pm

The new year is expected to bring yet another round of state laws to restrict abortion — and 2015 could also be the year a challenge to at least one of these laws could reach the Supreme Court.

The ongoing spike in abortion laws started after 2010, when Republicans won big in the midterms. Since then, state lawmakers have passed more than 200 abortion regulations — more than in the entire decade before. And with more statehouse gains in the fall elections, abortion opponents expect another good year.

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Health
3:36 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Teaching Friends And Family How To Reverse A Drug Overdose

Tina Wolf demonstrates the use of naloxone to community members in Lindenhurst, N.Y., during an overdose prevention training. Georgia Dolan-Reilly (left) of the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center helped with the training.
Kevin Hagen for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 10:05 am

When Priscilla Graham-Farmer went to get her hair done in Newark, N.J., recently, she noticed the elevator in the building was broken, so she took the stairs. And that's when Graham-Farmer saw him: a young guy sprawled out, not breathing.

"He was literally turning blue," she says. "And everybody was walking over him."

But Graham-Farmer stopped. And looked closer. She saw that he had a needle and some cotton balls. The guy had clearly overdosed.

"I'm screaming in the hallway," Graham-Farmer remembers. "Nobody's answering."

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