The Pulse – Dec. 5 2014


    A quick ethics test: Should a not-for-profit foundation make $3.3 billion selling royalty rights for a drug that treats its own donors and members? What if the money gets reinvested in more drugs and treatments? And what about slapping a $300,000 a year price tag on the stuff? And should we all have to help pick up the tab? Do you know the answers? Unsure ourselves, we sent reporter Carolyn Beeler to look into this more recent twist in the revenue stream of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

    “Space…the final frontier.” The prescient words of William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk, the tortured hero of the original Star Trek TV series. While his show sure had its hokey moments—think psychedelic sets and Shatner’s pension for melodramatic acting—but it turns out that some of the technology aboard the Starship Enterprise was highly influential for an entire generation of scientists and tinkerers. Reporter Zack Seward has this tale of a high-stakes medical device competition trying to create working “tricorders” inspired by the sci-fi classic and a local team boldly going into the finals.

    “Disinfectants” may not hold a very glamorous place in the world of health care, but inadequate clean up can put patients at risk. Hospital-acquired infections remain a huge challenge for the system, with outbreaks costing lives and money. A Delaware company thinks its got a way to reduce the spread of pathogens in medical settings, and, as WHYY’s Todd Bookman reports, the tool could also be used to fight the spread of Ebola.

    Imagine you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep as the chatter of a thousand people drones rudely on. This is an example of what it’s like to hear voices in your head that other people can’t. Hearing voices has long been associated with serious mental illness, and treated as a dangerous symptom, but now, voice hearers and advocates are taking a new approach to living with these voices. Laura Benshoff reports.

    The Neti Pot—a personal-care habit a lot of people believe in, but there isn’t a whole lot of science to back it up. It’s that weird plastic kettle you buy at the drugstore, fill with salty water, and then you pour that mixture into your nostril. For some it’s reminiscent of waterboarding, but for others, it’s an essential part of wintertime nose health. So which is it? We asked reporter Taunya English in search for some answers, but…full disclosure…she has a dog in this fight.

    Facts can be presented in different ways to tell different stories—anyone who’s served time on a jury knows this is true. Presenting a convincing case to a jury is the biggest part of a lawyer’s job, and some are enlisting the help of neuroscience to do this work better. Maiken Scott sits down with Kellie Janke and Mark Calzaretto of Magna Legal Services. They use their background in neuroscience and psychology to help her clients target specific areas of jurors’ brains.

    Also on the show, pain’s relationship with itch, sex equality in research, white-nose syndrome in bats, and a conversation with ecologist Danielle Kreeger about the work of restoring estuaries.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal