KERA Breakthroughs

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The William M Steger Federal Building & US Courthouse in Tyler, Texas

Patent Trolls, Poachers And The Wild District of Eastern Texas

East Texas is known for its Piney Woods, Caddo Lake, maybe for sweet potatoes. It’s also the patent lawsuit capitol of the country. More patent infringement cases are brought to Eastern District courts than anywhere else. There’s pressure to root out the so-called “patent trolls”.

In part two of this story, to air Wednesday December 2nd, we report on what’s being done to reign in patent trolls in Texas. We’ll talk with Michelle Lee, the head of the US Patent and Trademark Office at its new outpost in Dallas.

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A Tiny Pill Monitors Vital Signs From Deep Inside The Body

After testing all the pieces of a tiny pill-size device, Albert Swiston sent it on a unique journey: through the guts of six live Yorkshire pigs. Pig bodies are a lot like human bodies, and Swiston wanted to know whether the device would be able to monitor vital signs from inside a body. It did. Read More

Could Atropine Eyedrops Help Reduce Nearsightedness In Children?

If you peek into classrooms around the world, a bunch of bespectacled kids peeks back at you. In some countries such as China, as much as 80 percent of children are nearsighted. As those kids grow up, their eyesight gets worse, requiring stronger and thicker eyeglasses. But a diluted daily dose of an ancient drug might slow that process. Read More

Mother’s Milk May Help Prevent Blindness In Preemies

If Stevie Wonder had been born three decades later, we might never have gotten "Superstition" and "Isn't She Lovely" — but the musician might never have gone blind, either. Born premature, Wonder developed retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease that afflicts more than half of babies born before 30 weeks of gestation. Read More

Menopause: A Gold Mine For Marketers, Fewer Payoffs For Women

Over the years, many of us women have heard or used lots of euphemisms to describe menstruation: My Friend. The Curse. Aunt Flo. The Crimson Tide. (Yeah, sorry, Alabama, but that preceded you.) But code words for menopause? Not so much. Menopause was a process that was shrouded in mystery, myth and misinformation. Somehow, the reversal of menstruation, tied as it was to women's aging, was viewed as just shameful. Icky. Read More

Should Human Stem Cells Be Used To Make Partly Human Chimeras?

An intense debate has flared over whether the federal government should fund research that creates partly human creatures using human stem cells. The National Institutes of Health declared a moratorium in late September on funding this kind of research. NIH officials said they needed to assess the science and to evaluate the ethical and moral questions it raises. As part of that assessment, the NIH is holding a daylong workshop Friday. Read More

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Meet the Team


Lauren Silverman

Lauren Silverman


Lauren Silverman came to KERA this spring to cover health, science and technology after three years with NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered in Washington D.C. Lauren produced national stories on everything from the politics of climate change to the future of online education, including a piece on neighborhood farms in Compton, Calif., that won a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award. She’s written and recorded stories in English and Spanish for a variety of news outlets, including American Public Media’s Marketplace and NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Latino USA.

Sam Baker

Sam Baker

Senior Editor/Morning Edition Host

Sam Baker worked in commercial television for six years before moving to public broadcasting. The Beaumont native was News Director and Morning Edition host at KWGS-FM in Tulsa, Okla., for three years before joining KERA in 1991. He hosts and produces the station’s Vital Signs series, edits radio commentaries and has produced KERA versions of the NPR series This I Believe and StoryCorps. He also was the longtime host of KERA-TV’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He won a 2008 regional Emmy for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and also has earned honors from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and the Public Radio News Directors.

Dallas stock photography provided by Justin Terveen

General stock photography provided by Shutterstock


“Breakthroughs” is a KERA News project devoted to the latest innovations in health, science and technology — with a North Texas accent. We’ll focus on medical breakthroughs rooted in hospitals, clinics and labs throughout North Texas. We’ll explore the science labs and tech centers that anchor the region. And we’ll have some fun. You’ll find stories on everything from doctors using proton beams to treat cancer to patients using iPhone apps to monitor eye disease to a boat made of recycled water bottles that crossed the Pacific and landed for good in downtown Dallas. You have a key role in this blog: Share your stories, suggestions and questions – tweet #KERAbreakthroughs.


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