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Let's Talk About Sex

“My doctors all knew about it. ... Strangers, like people who just happened to be in the office when I was there, knew more about me than I did.”

In this episode, the first in our new Read Aloud series, we delve into biology that isn’t binary, and the challenges it brings. This Pitt Medcast was adapted from our Spring 2015 magazine story about the family of Pitt med alumni Arlene and Mark Baratz, who went to medical school and trained at Pitt in the 1980s.

Written by Micaela Corn with Erica Lloyd. Read by Micaela Corn. Produced by Elaine Vitone and Micaela Corn. Our executive producer is Erica Lloyd. Special thanks to Hovland for our music.




Corneal blindness affects millions worldwide. To date, the only treatment available is a corneal transplant. But potential new cures are coming from unexpected places—including wisdom teeth!

A husband-and-wife team at the University of Pittsburgh has been working toward the dream of regrowing new corneal tissue for years—that’s Jim Funderburgh, a professor of ophthalmology, and Martha Funderburgh, a research assistant in his lab and a corneal transplant recipient herself.

Working with Sayan Basu, a physician-scientist in Hyderabad, India, and Fatima Syed-Picard, a Pitt postdoc-turned NIH award recipient, the Funderburghs are now developing ways to repair corneal damage—and even prevent corneal scarring from happening in the first place. It turns out that adult stem cells taken from our own eyes and teeth are capable of regenerating this tissue so vital to our focusing power.

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by a story from the Spring 2015 issue of Pitt Med magazine

Interviewing, reporting, editing, and production by Elaine Vitone. Our executive producer is Erica Lloyd. Special thanks to Corey Layman, a.k.a. Developer, for our music. Science image reprinted with permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science



Second Lives

Nontraditional med students at the University of Pittsburgh share "past life" experiences. (Interviews recorded in Spring 2014.) 

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by "Second Lives," a feature story from the Summer 2014 issue of Pitt Med magazine.

Interviewing, reporting, editing, and production by Elaine Vitone. Our executive producer is Erica Lloyd. Photography by Cami Mesa.



The Emerging Neurobiology of Itch

Pain and itch have an interesting relationship. If you are bitten by a mosquito, you can ease the itch by scratching your skin. And if you take a dose of a powerful painkiller like morphine, you're likely to itch. The interrelatedness of these two experiences has made deciphering their neurobiology a real puzzler.  

In this multilayered soundscape, Sarah Ross, a PhD assistant professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, discusses her recent breakthroughs with this head scratcher. The team is now beginning to trace the circuit for itch, the least understood of our somatic senses.

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by "Scratching the Surface," a story from the Summer 2013 issue of Pitt Med magazine. Interviewing, reporting, editing, and production by Elaine Vitone. Our executive producer is Erica Lloyd. Special thanks to Pittsburgh's own Will Simmons for the music.




As recently as 20 years ago, tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other noise that afflicts people who’ve been exposed to loud sounds—was thought to be an affliction of the ear, but imaging studies eventually proved its source is in the brain. Recently, Pitt investigator Thanos Tzounopoulos, an expert in brain plasticity, uncovered the molecular mechanisms of this long-misunderstood condition, now the most common service-associated disability for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: When hearing is lost, the central nervous system tries to adapt and maintain a certain level of activity, filling the void with these phantom sounds.

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by “Static,” a feature story from the Winter 2011 issue of Pitt Med magazine. Interviewing, reporting, editing, and production by Elaine Vitone. Our executive producer is Erica Lloyd. Special thanks to Onodrim for the music.




The Brain's Reaction to Sound

Using an imaging technique called flavoprotein autofluorescence, Pitt’s Thanos Tzounopoulos showed that the dorsal cochlear nucleus—the first nucleus that ushers sound signals into the brain—is more active in mice with tinnitus (video top) than in healthy mice (bottom).
For more information on the emerging neuroscience of tinnitus, see our Winter 2011/12 feature story, "Static."




What makes genius happen?

During the University of Pittsburgh's Science2011, we pulled aside Pitt's Jeremy Berg and Harvard's George Whitesides, plied them with a couple of beers (courtesy of Pitt's N. John Cooper, dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences), and asked for their perspectives on what makes genius happen.

To read more about how genius works, and what happens when it does, see our Winter 2011/12 Cover Story, "Genius."

Whitesides is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University. The chemist by training is known for his astonishing breadth of inquiry and ability to contribute to many fields, including nanotechnology, microfabrication, and microfluidics.

Berg is Pitt's associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning and visiting professor of computational and systems biology. He's highly regarded for his work in molecular recognition processes and for his scientific leadership. Until earlier this year, he directed the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

This interview was conducted for Pitt Med by senior editor Joe Miksch. Originally posted March 2012.



Duvvuri on da Vinci

An interview with Pitt's Uma Duvvuri about a throat tumorectomy performed as a robotic-assisted laser-surgical procedure rather than a conventional procedure. By Joe Miksch. Originally posted July 2012.