Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Mike Marsella was a really competitive guy, a champion cross-country runner in high school. He got a running scholarship to college. Then a car hit him while he was riding a moped. He was left in a coma, with brain damage. And when his mind changed, his running changed, too.

Would he ever be Mike Marsella again? And would he ever run a four-minute mile?

An ancient variety of squash that was all but lost to history is now being rediscovered. Native Americans in the Great Lakes region have cultivated this squash for centuries, and now tribes are sharing the seeds with each other and with small farmers to bring the plant back.

Eighth Day Farm in Holland, Mich., is among those that acquired seeds from this mystery squash. And the farm's Sarah Hofman-Graham says they didn't know what to expect when they planted it last year.

During his daily bus commute in the bustling Indian city of Hyderabad, there was something that really bothered Narayana Peesapaty.

"Everybody was eating something on their way to work," says Peesapaty, who was working as a sustainable farming researcher for a nonprofit organization at the time. But it wasn't his fellow bus riders' snacking habits that troubled him. It was their plastic cutlery.

Researchers have identified a substance in muscles that helps explain the connection between a fit body and a sharp mind.

When muscles work, they release a protein that appears to generate new cells and connections in a part of the brain that is critical to memory, a team reports Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The Challenge Of Taking Health Apps Beyond The Well-Heeled

Jun 23, 2016

When you hear the phrase "digital health," you might think about a Fitbit, the healthy eating app on your smartphone, or maybe a new way to email the doctor.

But Fitbits aren't particularly useful if you're homeless, and the nutrition app won't mean much to someone who struggles to pay for groceries. Same for emailing your doctor if you don't have a doctor or reliable Internet access.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

A small plane on a daring winter evacuation mission from the South Pole landed safely Wednesday night at Punta Arenas, Chile.

Why do onions make us cry?

Many a poet has pondered. Is it because their beautiful, multilayered complexity moves us to weep? Are we mourning the majestic bulb as we cut it up and consume it?

Or are these tears induced by the tragic tedium of chopping, chopping, chopping?

Yes, yes. All of the above.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will be shut down by 2025. The plan was announced today by the power utility operating the plant, along with labor and environmental groups.

Updated 5:45 p.m. ET: Plane lands at the pole

The U.S. government has launched a rescue mission to the South Pole after a worker at its Amundsen-Scott research station fell ill. The evacuation comes at the height of winter on the Antarctic continent — a time when there are usually no flights in or out of the pole.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

California To Close State's Last Nuclear Power Plant

Jun 21, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Abortion is one of the more common procedures performed in the U.S., more common even than appendectomy. But as clinics in Texas close, finding a place in the state where medical residents training to be OB-GYNs can learn to do abortions is getting harder.

This summer, diners in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles will get their hands on a hamburger that has been five years in the making.

The burger looks, tastes and smells like beef — except it's made entirely from plants. It sizzles on the grill and even browns and oozes fat when it cooks. It's the brainchild of former Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and his research team at Northern California-based Impossible Foods.

The startup's goal is like many in Silicon Valley — to create a product that will change the world.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

By now we know that Zika is dangerous for pregnant women and their future babies. The virus can cause devastating birth defects.

But what about for infections after babies are born? Or in older children? Is Zika a danger for them?

So far, all the evidence suggests probably not. But there are a few caveats.

Let's start with what we know.

When you think about fish, it's probably at dinnertime. Author Jonathan Balcombe, on the other hand, spends a lot of time pondering the emotional lives of fish. Balcombe, who serves as the director of animal sentience for the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that humans are closer to understanding fish than ever before.

"Thanks to the breakthroughs in ethology, sociobiology, neurobiology and ecology, we can now better understand what the world looks like to fish," Balcombe says.

A solar-powered airplane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday, in a bid to have the Solar Impulse 2 craft cross the Atlantic Ocean and land in Spain on Thursday.

Randy Curtis was in second grade when he and his parents got devastating news from a specialist in blood disorders. Curtis had merely fallen and bumped his knee, but he remembers the doctor's words: " 'You know, these kids don't really live past 13.' "

"So, I went back to school the next day," Curtis remembers, "and told my math teacher, 'I don't have to learn this stuff. I'm going to be dead!' "

He was wrong.

When lead was taken out of products like paint and gasoline, levels of the metal in the blood of U.S. children dropped. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says the problem is not over.

Vermont Insurers Must Now Cover Vasectomies

Jun 18, 2016

Vermont has become one of several states working to make sure vasectomies are among the birth control options couples can afford.

Gov. Peter Shumlin last month signed into law a bill that adds vasectomies to the list of procedures that most health insurance coverage in Vermont must pay for.

A few weeks ago at a soccer game I was coaching, my team got trounced. They are 7 and they are not used to losing. As soon as I called the game and they realized what had just happened, two of the boys burst out crying.

A wine's terroir is what makes it special, says Greg Allen. He's a California winemaker who has studied and worked in the industry for 20 years.

"There's a rush of emotion when I think of terroir," he says. A wine's terroir may recall the slope of the hill where lush grapes grow — and maybe the angle of sunlight that warmed those grapes on that hill, or the way water moves through the soil that nourished them.

But when Allen thinks of terroir, he also think about microbes — about bacteria and fungi.

Jess Thom says the word "biscuit" about 16,000 times every day. Her brother-in-law counted once.

That's just one of the tics that Thom, a London-based performance artist, has to manage as part of her life with Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary vocal or motor tics. Specialists say the condition affects as many as 300,000 children in the United States, though many are undiagnosed.

Thom has had tics since childhood, but she wasn't diagnosed until her 20s.

A program that has helped seniors understand the many intricacies of Medicare, as well as save them millions of dollars, would be eliminated by a budget bill overwhelmingly approved last week by the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Editors' note: Invisibilia's back! Each Friday for the next seven weeks, we'll feature an excerpt from the latest episode of the NPR podcast. We're also creating original features for Shots that explore the Invisibilia theme of the week. This Saturday, Hanna Rosin asks whether social norms have changed enough so that boys are no longer afraid to cry. On Sunday, we explore how the norms for sickness and health vary around the world.

This is what passes for good news about coral reefs these days: Around the world, some reefs aren't dying as quickly as scientists thought they would.

Russia launched the world's biggest, most powerful icebreaker on Thursday in St. Petersburg.

The Arktika is 568 feet long and powered by two nuclear reactors. It can break through ice 13 feet deep, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.

The ship set forth early, ahead of its planned 2017 launch, according to Sputnik News and the shipyard where the Arktika was built.

Summer camp and mosquitoes go together like chicken and waffles, particularly in the South. But Zika virus may raise the stakes in the age-old struggle of campers versus pests. The mosquito species capable of carrying Zika can be found in much of the Southern United States.

Anxious parents need not panic; no Zika-infected mosquitoes have been identified in the country. Nonetheless, Tisha Bolger, board president of the American Camp Association, says camp administrators are particularly interested in what they can do to prevent mosquito bites this summer.

For months, scientists in Colombia have been working on a massive study.

They've been tracking the health of thousands of pregnant women to try to figure out key questions surrounding the Zika virus.

Now the team has published its first major findings, and they offer a glimmer of good news.

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