Science & Health

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Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Jennifer Brea's TED Talk

Doctors told Jennifer Brea that her symptoms were psychosomatic, so she filmed herself and turned to the Internet for guidance. She describes how her online community helped her find the right diagnosis.

About Jennifer Brea

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Paula Johnson's TED Talk

Men and women experience some diseases differently. Doctor Paula Johnson says this is alarming — because most treatments were designed for men, not women.

About Paula Johnson

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Dorothy Roberts' TED Talk

Doctors often take a patient's race into account when making a diagnosis--or ruling one out. Professor Dorothy Roberts says this practice is both outdated and dangerous.

About Dorothy Roberts

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Jennifer Brea's TED Talk

Jen Brea's doctors thought her fatigue and neurological symptoms were psychosomatic — but she knew that wasn't quite right. She shares her journey to find the right diagnosis.

About Jennifer Brea

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Elliot Krane's TED Talk

Doctors are often puzzled when pain lives on after the underlying cause goes away. Medical professor Elliot Krane explains why it can makes sense to think of chronic pain as a disease.

About Elliot Krane

Getting people to change what they eat is tough. Changing a whole farming system is even tougher. The southern Indian state of Karnataka is quietly trying to do both, with a group of cereals that was once a staple in the state: millet.

Until about 40 years ago, like most of India, the people of Karnataka regularly ate a variety of millets, from finger millet (or ragi) to foxtail millet. They made rotis with it, ate it with rice, and slurped it up at breakfast as porridge.

Each year, fish farms produce a massive amount of carp — so much that if you put all that fish on one side of a scale, and all the people living in the U.S. on the other side, they'd pretty much balance each other out by weight.

But for the past couple of decades, carp have been plagued by a type of herpes virus, known as Koi herpesvirus.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the size of the refugee problem confronting the world today. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 30,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day because of conflict or persecution.

But one energetic university professor in Germany decided that bemoaning and hand-wringing wasn't solving anything, so she decided to take action.

As a New Yorker, I ordered my groceries online and had them delivered to my third-floor walkup. After we moved to Portland, Ore., my husband and I started growing our own fruits and vegetables in the backyard. The logical next step in our evolution from city to country-ish mice: foraging.

A few months ago, some friends asked us to go mushroom hunting. When we actually found chanterelles, which sell for $15 a pound at the grocery store, I felt a small thrill: Expensive ingredients were free for the taking in a forest half an hour from home.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ten thousand years ago, at the dawn of the agricultural revolution, many of our worst infectious diseases didn't exist.

Here's what changed.

Researchers have identified the first known example of one animal, a boxer crab, stimulating another animal, a sea anemone, to reproduce asexually.

From the outside, it's a bit of an abusive situation.

The crabs and anemones have a symbiotic relationship. The anemones live on the delicate front claws of the crabs, protecting the claws and helping the crab mop up bits of food. The benefit to the anemone is less clear — the crab controls how much food its sea anemones get, maintaining them as small "bonsai" versions.

This newly discovered gecko species from Madagascar is a master escape artist.

It's extremely fast. Like other lizards, it can lose its tail and grow a new one. And it can shed its scales — the largest of any gecko — in order to flee a predator.

Researchers from the U.S., Germany and Colombia described the species Geckolepis megalepis in the journal PeerJ. But as lead author Mark D. Scherz tells The Two-Way, a skilled escape artist is an "absolute nightmare" to study.

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It was a familiar scene for many in New Orleans East, part of the city's Ninth Ward.

"As helicopters hovered overhead and emergency response vehicles streamed into neighborhoods, it reminded them of [Hurricane] Katrina," reported Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO in New Orleans. "The area was hit hard by that storm, and now many families will have to rebuild again."

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, paving the way for construction of the final 1.5 miles of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline.

In doing so, the Army cut short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET

A wall of dangerous storms is moving across the South, threatening communities in their path with high winds, severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

If you're a germaphobe, make sure you're sitting down.

Back in 1999, a woman in California cleaned up rodent droppings in her home. Two weeks later, her liver started failing. Then she started to bleed internally — a hemorrhagic fever that would kill her. Eventually doctors found a new virus in her body, which very likely came from a rat.

Women with breast cancer who are at high risk for having a BRCA mutation that raises cancer risk often don't get genetic testing, or even a chance to speak with a genetic counselor who'd help them weigh the necessity of such a test, a study finds.

A widely used blood test to measure blood-sugar trends can give imprecise results, depending on a person's race and other factors. This test means diabetes can sometimes be misdiagnosed or managed poorly.

Doctors have been cautioned before that results from the A1C test don't have pinpoint accuracy. A study published Tuesday underscores that shortcoming as it applies to people who carry the sickle cell trait.

In the foothills of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, a gravel road leads to a 10-foot-tall fence. Type in a key code, and a gate scrapes open. Undo a chain to get behind another. Everything here is made of metal, because the residents of this facility are experts at invasion and destruction.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says wildfires that killed at least 11 people and caused more than $300 million in damage are mostly under control.

"[These are] the worst wildfires that Chile has suffered in its history ... [but] are now mostly under control," Bachelet said over the weekend, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. "That doesn't mean, however, that we are letting down our guard."

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don't know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.

This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters' synthetic microfibers?

Plants that feed on flesh have fascinated scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin, and researchers now have new insight into how these meat-eaters evolved.

Even plants that evolved continents away from one another rely on strikingly similar tricks to digest their prey.

Most of us have reached for a painkiller, at one time or another, only to discover the date on the label shows it has expired. But what does an "expiration" date on medicine really mean? Is it dangerous if you take it anyway? Less effective?

By the time Kay Schwister got her diagnosis last summer, she couldn't talk anymore. But she could still scowl, and scowl she did.

After weeks of decline and no clue what was causing it, doctors had told Schwister — a 53-year-old vocational rehab counselor and mother of two from Chicago — that she had an incurable disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD.

The disease was shrinking Kay's brain, and riddling it with holes. She would likely live only a few more weeks, the doctors said.

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

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Trigger alert - does someone incessantly...

(SOUNDBITE OF PEN CLICKING)

The scientific community has been roiled by the Trump travel ban.

Like tens of thousands of residents of the seven Muslim-majority countries, scientists have been stranded — cut off from their labs, worried they won't be able to attend upcoming conferences. And even though the ban has been temporarily reversed by a court order, they are uncertain about what the future holds — and the implications for their work.

Consider the case of Ph.D. candidate Hanan Isweiri. She left her lab at Colorado State University to fly home to Libya after the death of her father.

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