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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Shots - Health News
1:08 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

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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Shots - Health News
9:37 am
Wed July 2, 2014

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

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 Now the research that claimed a simple acid solution could be used to create those cells has been retracted.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

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

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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Shots - Health News
4:34 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Warnings Against Antidepressants For Teens May Have Backfired

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

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

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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Health
1:50 am
Mon June 16, 2014

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

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
11:14 am
Thu June 12, 2014

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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Health
1:24 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Should HPV Testing Replace The Pap Smear?

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
1:54 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Deadly MERS Virus Detected In Florida

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
3:06 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

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

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

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

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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News
2:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

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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Health
2:54 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

'Provocative' Research Turns Skin Cells Into Sperm

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

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

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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News
2:31 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

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.

Shots - Health News
10:03 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

FDA Moves To Regulate Increasingly Popular E-Cigarettes

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
2:16 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

FDA Advisers Vote Against Approving New Opioid Painkiller

iStockphoto

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

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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Shots - Health News
1:29 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Powerful Narcotic Painkiller Up For FDA Approval

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
1:25 am
Tue April 15, 2014

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

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
2:18 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Doctors Use 3-D Printing To Help A Baby Breathe

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
10:08 am
Wed March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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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Humans
2:41 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

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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Shots - Health News
3:26 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Blood Test Provides More Accurate Prenatal Testing For Down Syndrome

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
2:48 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Scientists Question Safety Of Genetically Altering Human Eggs

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
11:26 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Flu Strikes Younger Adults Hard This Year

Fredy DeLeon gets a flu shot at a Walgreens pharmacy in Concord, Calif., in January.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 12:42 pm

This year's flu season is hitting younger and middle-aged adults unusually hard, federal health officials say.

More than 60 percent of flu patients who ended up in the hospital this year have been between the ages of 18 and 64. The proportion of young people among the hospitalized is much higher than usual, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 35 percent of flu patients who were hospitalized in the previous three years fell into that age group, the CDC says.

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Shots - Health News
12:07 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

An Artificial Arm Gives One Man The Chance To Feel Again

Dennis Aabo Sorensen tests a prosthetic arm with sensory feedback in a laboratory in Rome in March 2013.
Patrizia Tocci/Lifehand 2

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 6:43 pm

Ten years ago Dennis Sorensen was setting off fireworks to celebrate New Year's Eve with his family in Denmark when something terrible happened.

"Unfortunately one of the rockets we had this evening was not good and when we light it then it just blew up and, yeah, my hand was, was not that good anymore," says Sorensen.

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Shots - Health News
1:45 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Wanna Smoke? It Could Cost You A Tooth, FDA Warns Teens

Smoking can mess up your looks, according to an ad campaign aimed at keeping teens from smoking.
Courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 6:12 am

When it comes to persuading teenagers not to smoke, you have to think short-term, the Food and Drug Administration says.

"While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters Monday before unveiling the agency's first-ever anti-smoking campaign.

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Shots - Health News
3:30 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Adult Obesity May Have Origins Way Back In Kindergarten

Playing outside can help kids — and their parents — maintain a healthy weight.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 1:20 pm

A lot of parents like to think their kids will simply outgrow baby fat. But the risk of becoming a severely overweight adult can actually start as early as kindergarten, research suggests.

"As parents, as a society, as clinicians, we need to think about a healthy weight really early on," says Solveig Cunningham, who led the study. But that doesn't mean putting young children on calorie-restricted diets.

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Shots - Health News
1:39 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Can Probiotics Help Soothe Colicky Babies?

You tried burping. You tried bouncing. You tried swaddling. Now what?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 1:53 pm

When Melissa Shenewa and her husband imagined their first weeks with their new baby, they pictured hours of cuddling. Instead, they're enduring hours of inconsolable crying.

Their 6-week-old son, Aladdin, is a colicky baby. He cries for hours, usually in the middle of the night. They've tried everything they could think of. Nothing helps.

"Being a parent when your child is screaming in pain for hours on end and there's nothing you can do, you feel helpless," says Shenewa, 24, who lives in Houston. "You feel like you're not a good parent."

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Shots - Health News
1:07 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds

Illustration by Benjamin Arthur for NPR

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 10:58 am

Could the microbes that inhabit our guts help explain that old idea of "gut feelings?" There's growing evidence that gut bacteria really might influence our minds.

"I'm always by profession a skeptic," says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains."

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Shots - Health News
11:46 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Babies' Immune Systems May Stand Down To Let Good Microbes Grow

He's not just getting a cold. He's building his microbiome.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 1:27 pm

Here's possible solace for parents who are up at night with a baby who gets sick all the time: There appears to be a good reason why infant immune systems don't fight off germs.

A newborn's immune system is deliberately not doing battle with every germ that comes along so that "good" microbes have a chance to settle in, researchers say. That explanation is at odds with the widely held belief that those new immune systems are just too weak to do the job.

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Shots - Health News
1:45 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Exploring The Invisible Universe That Lives On Us — And In Us

Benjamin Arthur for NPR

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 1:28 pm

The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you're more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells.

Scientists increasingly think that these microorganisms have a huge influence on our health. Without them, our bodies don't seem to do as well. We don't seem to be as healthy and might actually get sick more often.

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Shots - Health News
1:16 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Getting Your Microbes Analyzed Raises Big Privacy Issues

Say hello to your microbiome, Rob Stein. Our intrepid correspondent decided to get his gut bacteria analyzed. Now he's wondering if he needs to eat more garlic and onions.
Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 1:28 pm

After spending months working on a series of stories about the trillions of friendly microbes that live in and on our bodies, I decided it might be interesting to explore my own microbiome.

So I pulled out my credit card and paid the $99 needed to sign up for the American Gut Project, one of a couple of "citizen science" or crowdsourced microbiome projects.

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Shots - Health News
4:50 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

FDA Seeks To Tighten Controls On Hydrocodone Painkillers

Hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin and other brand names, may face tighter restrictions on prescribing and use.
Toby Talbot AP

The Food and Drug Administration Thursday announced that it wants the federal government to impose tough new restrictions on some of the most widely used prescription painkillers.

The FDA said it planned to recommend that Vicodin and other prescription painkillers containing the powerful opioid hydrocodone be reclassified from a "Schedule III" drug to a "Schedule II" drug, which would impose new restrictions on how they are prescribed and used.

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