The Pulse – August 15, 2014

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    Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects about 100,000 people in the United States—mostly of African descent—making it one of the most common genetic disorders in the country. Despite the fact that it has been known and studied for over 100 years, there is no cure for Sickle Cell, and it lags behind similar diseases in both research funding and media attention. But advocates are trying to change that—in some cases, as reporter Jeanette Woods learned, to save their own lives.

    Last month marked the anniversary of the outing of the now infamous “Tuskegee Experiment.” Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. government enrolled African American men in a study of syphilis in Alabama, denying them available and affordable treatment for decades. As Pulse reporter Taunya English found out, the experiment’s ripple effects can be felt to this day.

    The circus is full of marvels of human strength and agility—contortionists, acrobatics, and even sideshow acts who can withstand the force of a hammer crushing a cinderblock on their back while lying on a bed of nails. A traveling exhibit on the history and science of the circus is at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute this month, and The Pulse’s Elana Gordon dropped in and brought back this report.

    Many of Pennsylvania’s forests produce the kinds of wood that are favorites for beautiful furniture and front doors—cherry, oak and walnut to name a few. Unfortunately, bugs love them just as much as humans. Pennsylvania’s horticultural history seems to include a steady stream of insects and fungi that threaten this major industry (remember the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease?). Now, even as Pennsylvania grapples with the latest scourge of the emerald ash borer, reporter Kimberly Haas says a new pest has arrived on our doorstep.

    Part of the Veterans Administration’s system overhaul to address long patient wait times is to offer veterans more access to community-based primary care doctors outside of the VA system, without forcing them to pay out of pocket or having to use other health insurance. Already a lot of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan receive care at non-VA doctors offices, and, as Pulse host Maiken Scott reports, there is a push underway to make sure all healthcare providers are better prepared to treat and understand these patients.

    12 years ago, Sociologist Liberty Walther Barnes and her husband were going through fertility treatments – and the experience opened Barnes’ eyes to a world she had previously known nothing about — couples, desperate and eager to do whatever it would take to conceive. Barnes researcher mind kicked in – and she decided to explore one aspect of this puzzle, male infertility. Her new book is called “Conceiving Masculinity.” 

    Legal or not, swimming in Philadelphia’s numerous creeks is a favorite summer activity for young and old. But, as WHYY’s Elizabeth Fiedler reports, a grieving Philadelphia mom wants to make sure everyone knows that swimming in the creeks isn’t just illegal—it’s dangerous.

    What if you could take carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere, and actually use it to make stuff? Well, in our regular segment “So, what do you do?” where lay people interview scientists about their work, we meet Peter Graham, a chemistry professor at St. Joseph’s University who is trying to do just that. He was interviewed by third-year Penn dental student Yesle Kim.

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