Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Doctors say it all started eight years ago, when a urology clinic in Oregon ran an ad promoting the benefits of scheduling a vasectomy in March.

"You go in for a little snip, snip and come out with doctor's orders to sit back and watch nonstop basketball," the voice-over promises. "If you miss out on this, you'll end up recovering during a weekend marathon of Desperate Housewives!"

When the Food and Drug Administration created controls in January on how farmers can give antibiotics to livestock, scientists concerned about antibiotic resistance and advocates for animal welfare called it a historic shift in how meat animals are raised.

But a new federal report, released last week, says the long-awaited FDA initiative — first attempted back in 1977 — falls short in so many areas that it may not create the change that backers hoped for.

Growing up in a hungry household in the first couple of years of life can hurt how well a child performs in school years later, according to a new study.

An estimated 13.1 million children live in homes with insufficient food, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cancer can be caused by tobacco smoke or by an inherited trait, but new research finds that most of the mutations that lead to cancer crop up naturally.

The authors of the study published Thursday poked a hornet's nest by suggesting that many cancers are unavoidable.

It was a meeting of nerds and sharks.

The self-described "biotech nerds" and "robotic nerds" were seven high school students from Washington, D.C. The eight teens who call themselves "sharks" and flew in from Ghana. "The shark is a big fish so it means you're big. Knowledgeable," explains Stephanie Obbo of Ghana, an aspiring medical doctor.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In 2015, when researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered that death rates had been rising dramatically since 1999 among middle-aged white Americans, they weren't sure why people were dying younger, reversing decades of longer life expectancy.

Now the husband-and-wife economists say they have a better understanding of what's causing these "deaths of despair" by suicide, drugs and alcohol.

It's hard not to get excited about news of a potentially effective treatment for sepsis, a condition that leads to multiple organ failure and kills more people in the hospital than any other disease.

But there have been so many false promises about this condition over the years, it's also wise to treat announcements — like one published online by the journal, Chest — with caution.

In August 2016, an outbreak of mumps began in Arkansas. Since then, there have been nearly 3,000 cases of the disease across 33 counties in the state.

As a public health practitioner, I wondered: Why did this outbreak take off?

My team at HealthMap, a computational epidemiology lab based out of Boston Children's Hospital, began by rounding up as much data as we could.

It's not every day that the world gets a new tool that could save 100,000 children each year.

And it's definitely not every day that the secret to that tool is the same thing that makes space ice cream so memorable.

Sounds crazy. But bear with me a moment.

Scientists say they have a new vaccine that's about 70 percent effective against rotavirus — a nasty little pathogen that gives children bad diarrhea here in the U.S. but kills more than 200,000 children each year in developing countries.

Men may soon be able to take their own sperm count — at home. With a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that.

You may be asking yourself, why?

Low sperm count is a marker for male infertility, a condition that is actually a neglected health issue worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

By a largely party-line vote Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that repeals Obama-era hunting restrictions on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The House already voted last month to abolish those restrictions — which were instituted by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016 to protect predator species from hunters — and so the bill now heads to the desk of President Trump, who is widely expected to sign it.

This blog post has some pretty useful information. So print it out; get out your highlighter and take off the cap.

Ready? Now throw it away, because highlighters don't really help people learn.

We all want for our kids to have optimal learning experiences and, for ourselves, to stay competitive with lifelong learning. But how well do you think you understand what good learning looks like?

On a cold and windy day off the coast of Alabama, a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts gathers, conducting the first test outside a laboratory for a potential new solution to a challenging problem: cleaning oil spills from water.

The invention, the Flame Refluxer, is "very simple," says Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering: Imagine a giant Brillo pad of copper wool sandwiched between layers of copper screen, with springy copper coils attached to the top.

A few years ago, Dr. Gregory Thomas thought he had finally found the Holy Grail of heart disease. And it was even found in a tomb.

He was studying the arteries of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies, and he thought this was finally it: a culture that would be free of heart disease. Heart disease couldn't be more than 3,000 years old, could it?

Man, he was disappointed.

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That's the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They're using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of "synthetic biology" research might be treading into disturbing territory.

In his late 20s, Christopher Milford of East Boston, Mass., got high on some OxyContin his friend gave him.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he was shooting heroin and Suboxone.

Milford would reuse the same needle for a week or more. Then, one day, he was so sick he couldn't get out of bed.

"It felt like the worst flu I ever got in my life," he says. "It almost felt like a dream. I started doing weird things like putting PlayStation controllers in the sink in the bathroom. It was just weird, off the wall."

Tomb Of Jesus Is Restored In Jerusalem

Mar 20, 2017

A restoration team Monday announced the completion of a historic renovation of one of Christianity's holiest sites — the shrine that, according to tradition, houses the tomb of Jesus.

The ornate shrine, called the Edicule, sits in the center of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the world's oldest churches, a 12th century building sitting on fourth century remains in Jerusalem's Old City.

According to Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian belief, the Edicule encases the ancient cave where Jesus' body was entombed and resurrected.

Safety advocates are worried that lawmakers are getting ready to make it harder to penalize companies that don't keep track of workers' injuries.

Since 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has required many employers to keep careful records of any worker injuries or illnesses.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

David Higginbotham contracted hepatitis C more than 35 years ago. He'd like to rid his body of the virus, but Colorado's Medicaid program says he's not sick enough to justify the cost.

And he's not alone.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22.

It's an occasion to think about the risks we all face from climate change — and to recognize the toll these problems take on the people in the developing world, who are especially vulnerable. When oceans rise, when drought strikes, the consequences can be dire. People are losing their homes and becoming climate refugees, losing their crops, losing their water sources. Disease-carrying insects are moving into new territory.

In 2016, a mass bleaching event caused unprecedented destruction to the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world.

Now, a new study in Nature has concluded that securing a future for coral reefs "ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming."

It finds that local measures, such as protecting reefs and water quality, ultimately yield little protection against bleaching caused by higher water temperatures.

Environmentalists love "cover crops." These are plants that tolerate cool weather and grow on farm fields after the crops are harvested. They hold the soil in place and are probably the most effective way to keep nutrients in fields, rather than polluting nearby streams.

This frog really lights up a room.

The South American polka dot tree frog initially appears unremarkable. But researchers in Argentina recently got a huge surprise when they shone an ultraviolet light on it, revealing that the creature is actually fluorescent and glows bright blue-green.

Rising drug prices are one of the biggest challenges in health care in the United States. More people are using prescription drugs on a regular basis, and the costs of specialty drugs are rising faster than inflation.

President Donald Trump has promised over and over again to drive down drug prices.

Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET

If there was any doubt over President Trump's views on climate change, those doubts evaporated with the unveiling of his proposed federal budget on Thursday.

The budget would end programs to lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, slash diplomatic efforts to slow climate change and cut scientific missions to study the climate.

Microscopic, bear-shaped animals called tardigrades are one of the most resilient animals on earth. Known colloquially as water bears, they can survive freezing temperatures, radiation, even a trip to outer space.

The creatures are famous for their ability to withstand extremely dry conditions. Water bears can go without water for 10 years, surviving as a dessicated shell. Just how they come back to life when their environment is friendlier has baffled scientists for years.

Biomedical research and public health are among the big losers in the Trump administration's proposed budget.

The proposal promises:

  • A "major reorganization" in the National Institutes of Health, which supports most of the nation's research on diseases and treatments. That includes a cut of $5.8 billion, about 20 percent of NIH's $30 billion budget.

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