Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

In his reporting, Stein focuses on the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, the obesity epidemic, and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein served as The Washington Post's science editor and national health reporter for 16 years, editing and then covering stories nationally and internationally.

Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years at NPR's science desk. Before that, he served as a science reporter for United Press International in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

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1:08pm

Mon July 14, 2014
Shots - Health News

Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 9:15 am

People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there's some new research out that suggests there's more to that than just a feeling. People appear to be more like their friends genetically than they are to strangers, the research found.

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9:37am

Wed July 2, 2014
Shots - Health News

Easy Method For Making Stem Cells Was Too Good To Be True

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 9:21 am

The heart beats in a mouse embryo grown with stem cells made from blood. Now the research that claimed a simple acid solution could be used to create those cells has been retracted.
Courtesy of Haruko Obokata

A prestigious scientific journal Wednesday took the unusual step of retracting some high-profile research that had generated international excitement about stem cell research.

The British scientific journal Nature retracted two papers published in January by scientists at the Riken research institute in Japan and at Harvard Medical School that claimed that they could create stem cells simply by dipping skin and blood cells into acid.

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4:34pm

Wed June 18, 2014
Shots - Health News

Warnings Against Antidepressants For Teens May Have Backfired

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:24 am

Antidepressant use nationally fell by 31 percent among adolescents between 2000 and 2010. Suicide attempts increased by almost 22 percent.
JustinLing/Flickr

Government warnings that antidepressants may be risky for adolescents, and the ensuing media coverage, appear to have caused an increase in suicide attempts among young people, researchers reported Wednesday.

A study involving the health records of more than 7 million people between 2000 and 2010 found a sharp drop in antidepressant use among adolescents and young people and a significant increase in suicide attempts after the Food and Drug Administration issued its warnings.

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1:50am

Mon June 16, 2014
Health

Father Devises A 'Bionic Pancreas' To Help Son With Diabetes

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 6:00 am

Ed Damiano and his son David, 15, play basketball at home in Acton, Mass. Ed has invented a device he hopes will make David's diabetes easier to manage.
Ellen Webber for NPR

An alarm sounds on Ed Damiano's night stand in the middle of the night. He jumps out of bed and rushes into his son's room next door.

His son, David, has Type 1 diabetes. The 15-year-old sleeps hooked up to a monitor that sounds an alarm when his blood sugar gets too low. If it drops sharply, David could die in his sleep.

"The fear is that there's going to be this little cold limb, and I screwed up. It's all on me," Damiano says.

But when he touches David's hand, he's warm. He's OK. Damiano says, "That's the moment of relief."

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11:14am

Thu June 12, 2014
Shots - Health News

Teen Smoking Hits A 22-Year Low, But Other Tobacco Uses Rise

A teenager finishes her cigarette in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.
Darren McCollester Getty Images

Cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to the lowest level in 22 years, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The percentage of students who reported smoking a cigarette at least one day in the last 30 days fell to 15.7 percent in 2013, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a large federal survey that has been tracking youth smoking since 1991.

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1:51am

Wed May 21, 2014
Health

Should HPV Testing Replace The Pap Smear?

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 12:15 pm

Two cervical cancer cells divide in this image from a scanning electron microscope.
Steve Gschmeissner Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

Robin Reath was getting a routine checkup recently when her doctor brought up something new about cervical cancer screening.

"We might be doing something a little bit different than what we've been doing in the past when we've screened you," said Dr. Andrea Singer, an internist at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington.

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1:54pm

Mon May 12, 2014
Shots - Health News

Deadly MERS Virus Detected In Florida

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 2:38 pm

A farmworker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wears a mask to protect against Middle East respiratory syndrome earlier this month. The MERS virus is common in camels.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

The second U.S. case of a dangerous new virus from the Middle East has been found in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

The patient is a health care worker from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who developed symptoms May 1 while traveling to Orlando, Fla., to visit family, the CDC said.

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3:06pm

Fri May 9, 2014
Shots - Health News

Keep Or Kill Last Lab Stocks Of Smallpox? Time To Decide, Says WHO

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 6:45 pm

U.S. Marine Sgt. Robert Scoggin gets a vaccination against smallpox in 2003 at Camp Pendleton in California — one of the final steps before deployment overseas.
David McNew Getty Images

The World Health Organization is revisiting a question that's been the subject of intense debate for decades: whether to destroy the only known samples of the smallpox virus.

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2:08pm

Fri May 2, 2014
News

First American Case Of MERS Reported In Indiana

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 9:17 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The first case of MERS has been confirmed in the U.S. MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome. Health officials say a man in Indiana was hospitalized on Monday and is in stable condition. NPR's Rob Stein reports that while precautions are being taken to contain the virus, there is no reason for widespread alarm.

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2:54pm

Thu May 1, 2014
Health

'Provocative' Research Turns Skin Cells Into Sperm

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 6:46 am

New research could be promising for infertile men. Scientists were able to make immature sperm cells from skin cells. Their next challenge is to make that sperm viable.
iStockphoto

Scientists reported Thursday they had figured out a way to make primitive human sperm out of skin cells, an advance that could someday help infertile men have children.

"I probably get 200 emails a year from people who are infertile, and very often the heading on the emails is: Can you help me?" says Renee Reijo Pera of Montana State University, who led the research when she was at Stanford University.

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2:15pm

Thu April 24, 2014
News

With New E-Cigarette Rules, FDA Hopes To Tame A 'Wild, Wild West'

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 5:17 pm

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to expand its regulatory powers to e-cigarettes and other popular products containing nicotine.

10:03pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Shots - Health News

FDA Moves To Regulate Increasingly Popular E-Cigarettes

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 1:33 pm

A woman tries electronic cigarettes at a store in Miami.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration Thursday proposed regulating e-cigarettes for the first time.

The agency unveiled a long-awaited rule that would give it power to oversee the increasingly popular devices, much in the way that it regulates traditional cigarettes.

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2:16pm

Tue April 22, 2014
Shots - Health News

FDA Advisers Vote Against Approving New Opioid Painkiller

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 7:50 pm

iStockphoto

A key government panel Tuesday voted unanimously against approval of a powerful opioid prescription painkiller intended to provide faster relief with fewer side effects.

At the conclusion of a hearing, the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 14-0 against recommending that the agency approve Moxduo, the first drug to combine morphine and oxycodone into one capsule.

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1:29am

Tue April 22, 2014
Shots - Health News

Powerful Narcotic Painkiller Up For FDA Approval

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 10:34 am

Morphine and oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin) are strong narcotic pain relievers on their own. Moxduo, a drug now up for FDA approval, would combine morphine and oxycodone in a single capsule.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide whether to approve a powerful new prescription painkiller that's designed to relieve severe pain quickly, and with fewer side effects than other opioids.

While some pain experts say the medicine could provide a valuable alternative for some patients in intense pain, the drug (called Moxduo) is also prompting concern that it could exacerbate the epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and overdoses.

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1:25am

Tue April 15, 2014
Shots - Health News

Voodoo Dolls Prove It: Hunger Makes Couples Turn On Each Other

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 3:03 pm

Volunteers with lower levels of blood sugar stuck more pins in voodoo dolls of their spouses than people with higher levels.
Courtesy of Brad Bushman

A lot of us know what can happen when we get hungry. We get grumpy, irritable and sometimes nasty.

There's even a name for this phenomenon: "Hangry, which is a combination of the words hungry and angry," says psychologist Brad Bushman from Ohio State University.

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2:18am

Mon March 17, 2014
Shots - Health News

Doctors Use 3-D Printing To Help A Baby Breathe

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 9:59 am

Garrett shares a moment with his mother, Natalie Peterson. "He has been doing so good," she says. "He's been smiling."
Nicole Haley/University of Michigan Health System

Ever since the day Garrett Peterson was born, his parents have had to watch him suddenly just stop breathing.

"He could go from being totally fine to turning blue sometimes — not even kidding — in 30 seconds," says Garrett's mother, Natalie Peterson, 25, of Layton, Utah. "It was so fast. It was really scary."

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10:08am

Wed March 12, 2014
Shots - Health News

Mix Of Gut Microbes May Play Role In Crohn's Disease

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 7:31 pm

In some human diseases, the wrong mix of bacteria seems to be the trouble.
Getty Images

The particular assortment of microbes in the digestive system may be an important factor in the inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn's disease.

Research involving more than 1,500 patients found that people with Crohn's disease had less diverse populations of gut microbes.

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2:12pm

Tue March 11, 2014
Humans

Genetic Sequencing May Not Be Ready To Become Routine

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 4:51 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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3:17pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

Blood Test Provides More Accurate Prenatal Testing For Down Syndrome

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 9:24 am

The new test scans a mother's blood for bits of a fetus's DNA.
iStockphoto

A new blood test offers pregnant women a safe and much more accurate way to screen for Down syndrome.

A study that evaluated the test in 1,914 pregnancies found that the test, which checks DNA, produces far fewer false alarms than the current screening techniques.

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2:35pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

Scientists Question Safety Of Genetically Altering Human Eggs

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:08 am

Up till now, all babies have had two genetic parents. That could soon change.
Klöpper & Eisenschmidt GbR iStockphoto

A panel of government advisers has expressed serious concerns about a controversial proposal to allow scientists to try to make babies using eggs that have been genetically altered to include DNA from another woman.

Members of the Food and Drug Administration panel said they were worried that not enough research has been done to know whether the experiments would be safe.

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