Washington University | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and elsewhere are investigating whether transfusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 can prevent or treat the disease.
Getty Images via Washington University

Updated at 2:52 p.m. with comments from Dr. Jeffrey Henderson

Washington University researchers will soon begin testing a century-old technique that could help combat COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the university’s application to test plasma transfusion: isolating and transfusing antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to those who are at high risk or are already ill from the virus.

Michael Kinch
Washington University

Many aspects of everyday life and commerce are grinding to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the online world remains as frenetic as ever. And while virtual tools and social media platforms provide much-needed connections in these isolating times, they’ve also made it easy for harmful misinformation to spread almost as fast as the coronavirus itself.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we worked to combat some of the false assumptions circulating about the virus. Host Sarah Fenske talked with Michael Kinch, the director of Washington University’s Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery, and he fielded listener calls in addition to Fenske’s questions.

The Labadie Energy Center was one of two Ameren Missouri power plants involved in the data breach.
File photo | Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Ransomware attackers have stolen data from a third-party vendor that supplies utility equipment to Ameren Missouri power plants.

Dozens of data files from Ohio-based LTI Power Systems appeared on a ransomware server in late February, including equipment diagrams and schematics from two Ameren Missouri facilities. No customer information appears to have been involved in the data breach.

Painter John William Waterhouse depicts a scene from the frame story of Boccaccio's "Decameron."
Wikimedia Commons

When a plague swept 14th-century Florence, killing more than half the city’s population, wealthy Italians turned to social distancing. One small group’s retreat from a stricken city to a deserted villa became the backdrop for the classic novel “The Decameron.”

That novel is just one of the texts Rebecca Messbarger teaches in her Disease, Madness and Death Italian Style course at Washington University. But it has sudden resonance, she says — and relevance she never anticipated when she began teaching it a year ago.

Rebecca Lester is an associate professor of sociocultural anthropology and a licensed clinical social worker.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

According to Washington University’s Rebecca Lester, eating disorders are among the most misunderstood medical conditions. For instance, she says, there’s an assumption that eating disorders are only a problem for upper-middle-class white girls — while that’s not completely off base, it’s just a sliver of the story.

In “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America,” Lester looks closely at the impact of common misconceptions of eating disorders, as well as the way the U.S. health care system often fails to provide the types of treatment needed.

The new Sumers Welcome center employees a glass, curtain wall design.  [9/27/19]
James Ewing

Updated at 8:40 p.m. March 13, with new information about St. Louis University and the University of Missouri System 

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on college campuses in the St. Louis region, but many university admistrators are taking precautions by suspending in-person instruction and transitioning to online teaching platforms for varying periods of time.

Here's how the insitutions are responding.

Postdoctoral researchers Adam Bailey and Brett Case work on a vaccine to prevent the disease caused by the new coronavirus in a laboratory at the Washington University Medical Campus in March 2020.
Matt Miller | Washington University School of Medicine

As the number of COVID-19 cases climbs in the U.S., scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine are working on a vaccine to prevent the disease. 

Researchers are using a virus that’s harmless to humans and replacing a protein on its surface with one from the coronavirus that spreads the COVID-19 disease. That strategy could generate antibodies in the immune system that would attack the virus, said Sean Whelan, head of Wash U’s Department of Molecular Microbiology.

Leonard Green is a professor of psychological and brain sciences and economics at Washington University.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

’Tis the season for attempted lifestyle changes and vice-forsaking of all sorts. For the more resolute, perhaps a new 2020 goal has really started to stick after two months of hard-fought discipline. Others, particularly many Christians, are just beginning to give something up for Lent, a 40-day period leading up to the celebration of Easter.

Or at least they’ll try to give it up, whether it be a substance such as alcohol or sugar or, say, a digital denial of the self — like completely staying off Facebook. Many people fail at these attempts, giving in before the 40 days are up.

Washington University's Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) is one of two clinics in St. Louis that provides care for pregnant women facing the challenges of an opioid use disorder.
DAVID KOVALUK | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Washington University’s Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment treats women who become pregnant while dealing with an opioid use disorder. It provides prenatal care, substance abuse treatment and extended postpartum support. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, the clinic’s medical director said there is a high demand for these services in the St. Louis region.

“We started as a half-a-day-a-week clinic, and volume has expanded so much that we are opening a second half-day in addition to our original,” said Dr. Jeannie Kelly. “We have seen a pretty high number [of clients] in our clinic.”

Donald Hutson died after taking synthetic cannabinoids, or K2, at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in 2018. An internal investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections revealed officers did not follow departmental policy while restraining him.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Donald Hutson’s family had been waiting for his release from prison for decades.

But in September 2018, Hutson died at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center after taking the illegal drug K2.

St. Louis Public Radio first reported on his death last year as part of a long-term investigation examining overdoses in Missouri prisons. Our reporting uncovered disturbing details about the night Hutson died, spurring more questions. 

Darwin Aquino grew up in the Dominican Republic playing the violin before becoming a conductor and composer.
August Jennewein | University of Missouri-St. Louis

For about a year, Darwin Aquino has been serving as conductor of the orchestras at both the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Washington University. And on Tuesday evening, the two groups under his direction rehearsed together for the first time ever. Final preparations are underway for their distinctive concert this Sunday, where they’ll combine musical forces to present music from several popular video games, films and more.

“It’s the music that we hear every day, and especially our young people,” he said during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They are hearing that music while they play the video games or they see a movie. So that’s why we decided for this very special event [to] put two university orchestras together … playing the music of today.”

Tim Bono has written the book on "Happiness 101."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Bono knows what will make you happier. And it may not be what you think. “[T]he common denominator of happiness has a lot to do with the denominator itself,” writes the Washington University lecturer in psychological and brain sciences. “The happiest young adults craft lives that ensure that what they want doesn’t get larger than what they have.”

But as Bono explains in his book, “Happiness 101,” it’s not about keeping expectations low. It is about keeping them realistic — and remembering what you have by practicing gratitude.

The Rev. Deanna Hollas became the first ordained minister of gun violence prevention last year. 2/6/20
The Rev. Deanna Hollas

The first ordained Presbyterian minister of gun violence prevention is headed to St. Louis to teach elected officials and parishioners about ending gun violence. 

Washington University and Webster Groves Presbyterian Church will host a weekend-long event that will include a lecture, sermon and workshop with the Rev. Deanna Hollas. Hollas was ordained a minister of gun violence prevention through the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship last year. 

Adia Harvey Wingfield joined Wednesday's talk show.
Sean Garcia

Washington University’s Adia Harvey Wingfield, who is a professor of sociology, has long been interested in the ways that race, class and gender influence everyday workplace structures and interactions. Her most recent book, “Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy,” looks closely at the experiences of black workers in health care — as does a new study of which she is the co-author.

Focused around 60 in-depth interviews with black doctors, nurses and technicians, the study suggests that among people of color, one’s professional status within an organizational hierarchy has a significant effect on how one perceives instances of racial discrimination.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Harvey Wingfield joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the implications of this research for the health care industry and beyond.

Illustration by Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

As a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University, Tom Cohen realized he had a slim shot at landing a tenure-track job. But in the business world, his expertise offered lots of opportunities.

That’s why he joined the Biotechnology and Life Science Advising Group, founded by Wash U students and called BALSA for short.

It allows Ph.D.s and postdocs from universities in the area to gain industry experience while businesses commissioning projects get the work done for a fraction of the cost. 

Jameca Falconer joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about the types of attention and how limited attention spans can lead to hasty or irrational decision making. Steve Smith joined the conversation by phone to talk about guidelines for senators
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

This week marked the next phase of the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Eventually, the senators will have to vote whether or not to remove the president from office. Senators are in the midst of a question-and-answer period before potentially calling on witnesses to testify. 

The lawmakers sit through hours and hours of information overload during these hearings, which began Jan. 16, and are only granted a brief 15-minute recess every two hours — with a 45-minute recess for dinner at 6 p.m. The break time is decided on by the majority leader, with approval from the minority leader. 

That can take a mental and physical toll — as noted by reporters covering the hearings and illustrated by senators taking cat naps or walking out during presentations. One senator is even providing fidget spinners to colleagues. 

Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation spoke with Charli Cooksey (right), CEO of WEPOWER about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis, but nationally.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

Siteman Cancer Center

Siteman Cancer Center’s newest location will bring access to new treatments and clinical trials to the Metro East.

The cancer center's Shiloh, Illinois, location began accepting patients this week. As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, Siteman’s facility will go beyond traditional treatment and allow patients to receive experimental procedures such as immunotherapy and genomics, Siteman Cancer Center Director Tim Eberlein said.

January 14, 2020 Miranda Popkey
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Miranda Popkey is a California native, and much of her debut novel, “Topics of Conversation,” is set in the state. But the novel has a St. Louis origin story. It’s while she was in the MFA program at Washington University that she wrote much of it. And it’s at Wash U that she realized it could be, and was, a novel.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Popkey joined us to discuss her novel. 

The novel’s focus on ideas over plot — and its sometimes “unlikeable narrator” — have drawn pushback from some readers, she acknowledged.  

Philip Bayly, a mechanical engineer at Washington University, holds a model of a human brain on January 1, 2020. Bayly is part of a team of engineers and doctors working to better understand brain injuries.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Philip Bayly has spent years trying to figure out the best way to jiggle a brain. 

The mechanical engineer is part of a team of researchers at Washington University studying how a jolt to the head can shake the brain — the kind of injury a football player suffers when crashing into an opponent. Using a specially designed device that vibrates volunteers’ heads, they hope to better understand the effects of repeated brain injuries.

Washington University composer Christopher Stark's "Seasonal Music" explores the ways our environment is changing. (Dec. 5, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A growing number of artists are trying to start a conversation about climate change — without words or data. 

Some, like Washington University composer Christopher Stark, are communicating their anxiety about climate change through music. His newly released string quartet, “Seasonal Music,” explores the ways our environment is changing in real time.

Dr. Joshua Swamidass
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Bring up Adam and Eve in contemporary conversation, and you’ll likely be met with either total skepticism or deep confidence, depending on the audience. Diametrically opposed views of the biblical origin story come with the territory of ongoing cultural battles between creationists and evolutionists and the typical right and left.

But Washington University’s Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass, who describes himself as “a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science,” is hoping to shift the conversation. In his new book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry,” he hopes to reach secular and religious readers alike.

“What if the traditional account is somehow true, with the origins of Adam and Eve taking place alongside evolution?” he asks.

Washington University researchers collected bacteria samples from more than 100 families with children who had been treated for MRSA infections. They found MRSA on multiple household surfaces, including towels and bedsheets.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

People treated for drug-resistant MRSA often develop infections again and again — even multiple times in a single year.

Part of the problem is the hardiness of the bacteria responsible, which can live on household surfaces for months.

Washington University researchers report family members who share specific items, including towels and bedsheets, are more likely to pass the bacteria to each other. The team, which spent a year collecting bacteria samples from St. Louis families, also found that children who attend day care were often the ones who brought MRSA bacteria home. 

Mare Nectaris is a small lunar sea located on the near side of the moon.
Paul Stewart | Flickr

The Earth’s moon contains ice, but scientists don’t know much about where the water came from. As the moon formed, water could have come from Earth’s volcanoes in the form of gas. It could have been brought there by comets and meteorites. Or, it may have traveled to the lunar surface via solar wind that interacted with minerals on the moon to create water. 

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to find some answers. The team has been chosen as one of NASA’s eight new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institutes. They are part of a five-year cooperative agreement valued at more than $7 million.

An illustration of astronauts at a lunar crater.
NASA

Space explorers could someday use the moon to mine for elements needed to make rocket fuel on the moon, making it a launchpad to other worlds. 

But first, scientists need to study the moon’s ice deposits. A team of astrophysicists at Washington University has received a $7 million agreement with NASA to study the origins of lunar ice, ammonia and methane over the next five years.

More than 70% of U.S. seniors surveyed lived in homes without any accessibility features, like handicap ramps or grab bars.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Seniors with disabilities who live alone show faster declines in brain function than those who live with others, according to Washington University research.

But there’s an encouraging finding: Seniors who live in homes with handicap-accessible features stay mentally sharp longer. 

More than 12 million seniors in the U.S. live alone. Many are opting to age in their homes, rather than move into nursing facilities. But most homes in the U.S. lack features that make them accessible for disabled people.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Predominantly black neighborhoods in the St. Louis region where poor people live have a much higher exposure to carcinogenic air pollution than white middle-class neighborhoods, according to a study from Washington University. 

Researchers analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on risk of cancer from air pollutants, like ozone, among census tracts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the journal Environmental Research, scientists reported that the risk was five times higher for census tracts that had mostly black residents and high levels of poverty than for areas with white middle-class residents.

From left, Lynn Novick, Salih Israil and Paul Lynch joined Friday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Filmmaker Lynn Novick’s new documentary “College Behind Bars,” set to air on PBS later this month, follows the journeys of men and women pursuing academic degrees while in prison. In doing so, it illustrates the life-changing nature of educational opportunity while also putting a human face on mass incarceration and, as the film’s website puts it, “our failure to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million Americans living behind bars.”

Prison education programs, including the one featured in Novick’s film, the Bard Prison Initiative, are among efforts to address that failure across the nation. Locally, both St. Louis University and Washington University run programs that bring faculty members to several of the region’s correctional institutions to lead college-level classes. And like other such programs, they boast extremely low recidivism rates for participants who have since been released from prison.

"Michelangelo, God's Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece" will be published on Nov. 19, 2019.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Most people are knowledgeable about the early accomplishments of Michelangelo, like his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in his 30s. But the artist and architect worked well into his 80s, at a time when the average life expectancy was about 40 to 45 years. In fact, he was still carving sculptures four days before he died.

Maliyah Isadora and her mother Courtney at their home in Florissant in this 2015 photo.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Black infants in St. Louis County are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, according to a new report.

The first Maternal and Child Health Profile, released today at Washington University’s Institute for Public Health conference, highlights troubling racial disparities in the health of moms and babies in St. Louis County. Health officials acknowledge these persistent issues, but also point to progress in other areas — including declines in teen pregnancy.

Pages