Rob Stein

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

An award-winning science journalist with more than 25 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, 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.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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Shots - Health News
1:43 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Fertility Clinic Courts Controversy With Treatment That Recharges Eggs

Along with sperm, the in vitro procedure adds fresh mitochondria extracted from less mature cells in the same woman's ovaries. The hope is to revitalize older eggs with these extra "batteries." But the FDA still wants proof that the technique works and is safe.
Chris Nickels for NPR

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 9:24 am

Melissa and her husband started trying to have a baby right after they got married. But nothing was happening. So they went to a fertility clinic and tried round after round of everything the doctors had to offer. Nothing worked.

"They basically told me, 'You know, you have no chance of getting pregnant,' " says Melissa, who asked to be identified only by her first name to protect her privacy.

But Melissa, 30, who lives in Ontario, Canada, didn't give up. She switched clinics and kept trying. She got pregnant once, but that ended in a miscarriage.

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Shots - Health News
3:03 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

FDA Mandates Tougher Warnings On Testosterone

AndroGel, a testosterone replacement made by AbbVie, is seen at a pharmacy in Princeton, Ill.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:03 pm

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it is requiring drugmakers to warn patients that testosterone products may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Testosterone replacements are approved to treat men with low testosterone related to medical problems, such as genetic deficiencies, chemotherapy or damaged testicles.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Infections With Dangerous Gut Microbe Still On The Rise

An overgrowth of Clostridium difficile bacteria can inflame the colon with a life-threatening infection.
Dr. David Phillips Getty Images/Visuals Unlimited

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 4:34 pm

A potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal infection is more common than previously estimated, federal health officials reported Wednesday.

The infection, caused by a bacterium known as Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, causes nearly 500,000 illnesses in the United States each year and kills about 29,000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Salt
2:39 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Feeding Babies Foods With Peanuts Appears To Prevent Allergies

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 12:28 pm

Babies at high risk for becoming allergic to peanuts are much less likely to develop the allergy if they are regularly fed foods containing the legumes starting in their first year of life.

That's according to a big new study released Monday involving hundreds of British babies. The researchers found that those who consumed the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting when they were between 4 and 11 months old, were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday.

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Shots - Health News
10:41 pm
Sun February 22, 2015

Kids, Allergies And A Possible Downside To Squeaky Clean Dishes

Vidhya Nagarajan for NPR

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 9:21 am

Could using a dishwashing machine increase the chances your child will develop allergies? That's what some provocative new research suggests — but don't tear out your machine just yet.

The study involved 1,029 Swedish children (ages 7 or 8) and found that those whose parents said they mostly wash the family's dishes by hand were significantly less likely to develop eczema, and somewhat less likely to develop allergic asthma and hay fever.

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Shots - Health News
2:00 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Female Libido Pill Fires Up Debate About Women And Sex

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 6:35 am

For 15 years, Carla Price and her husband's sex life was great. But then things began to change.

"Before, I would want to have sex," says Price, who is 50 and lives in central Missouri. "But over the years my sexual desire has just dwindled to nothing."

Price has no idea why. She's healthy. She's not really stressed out about anything. And she's still totally crazy about her husband.

"It's not that our relationship got boring," Price says. "Because it's actually the opposite — we became closer as we got older together."

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Shots - Health News
1:33 am
Mon February 9, 2015

Harnessing The Immune System To Fight Cancer

Marder says immunotherapy has side effects but is less tiring than chemotherapy.
Claire Eggers/NPR

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 2:35 pm

When Barbara Marder was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, she had part of her right lung removed, went through a round of chemotherapy and tried to move on with her life.

"I had hoped that everything was fine — that I would not create difficulty for my children, that I would get to see my grandchildren grow up," says Marder, 73, of Arnold, Md.

But a routine scan a year later found bad news: The cancer was back — this time in her other lung.

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Humans
2:37 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

U.K. Lawmakers Allow Scientists To Attempt 'DNA Transplants'

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 9:02 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
3:08 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

E-Cigarettes Can Churn Out High Levels Of Formaldehyde

Vapor from an e-cigarette obscures the user's face in a London coffee bar.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 2:55 pm

Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — researchers reported Wednesday.

The findings, described in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, intensify concern about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.

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Shots - Health News
11:42 am
Thu January 15, 2015

This Year's Flu Vaccine Is Pretty Wimpy, But Can Still Help

Bruno Mbango Enyaka gets his flu shot at a community health center in Portland, Maine, on Jan. 7.
Gabe Souza Press Herald via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 5:21 pm

As expected, this year's flu vaccine looks like it's pretty much of a dud.

The vaccine only appears to cut the chances that someone will end up sick with the flu by 23 percent, according to the first estimate of the vaccine's effectiveness by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Shots - Health News
1:17 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Specialists Split Over HPV Test's Role In Cancer Screening

The human papilloma virus causes most — but not all — cases of cancer of the cervix.
James Cavallini ScienceSource

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 10:49 am

Two medical groups say doctors could replace the Pap smear with a different test to screen many women for cervical cancer.

But that recommendation, included in an "interim guidance" released Thursday, is highly controversial; other experts call it premature.

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Shots - Health News
1:28 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Potent Powdered Caffeine Raises Safety Worries

One teaspoon of pure caffeine powder delivers about the same jolt as 25 cups of coffee.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 5:32 am

Wade Sweatt thought he had found a healthier way to get himself going in the morning. Instead of getting his daily jolt of caffeine from a cup of coffee or a Coke, Sweatt decided last summer to try mixing some powdered caffeine he'd bought via the Internet with some water or milk.

"Wade was very health-conscious, a very healthy person," says Sweatt's father, James. "His idea was, this was healthier than getting all the sugar and the sodium and ... artificial sweeteners from drinking Coca-Colas and diet Cokes."

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Shots - Health News
2:26 pm
Fri December 26, 2014

One More Reason To Reach For A Paper Book Before Bed

Sleepy in the day and wide awake at night? Give the screen a rest.
Guido Mieth Getty Images/Flickr RM

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 6:18 am

E-readers may make it particularly hard to get a good night's sleep, according to research out this week.

A study that followed every nightly twitch, turn and snore of 12 volunteers for a couple weeks found that those who read from an iPad before hitting the sack had a harder time falling asleep, spent less time in a crucial phase of sleep, and were less alert the next day.

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The Two-Way
3:43 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

Mishandling Of Ebola Sample May Have Exposed CDC Technician To Virus

Stringy particles of Ebola virus (blue) bud from a chronically infected cell (yellow-green) in this colorized, scanning electron micrograph.
NIAID Science Source

Originally published on Fri December 26, 2014 11:54 am

Federal health officials are investigating an incident involving the mishandling of the Ebola virus at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's headquarters in Atlanta.

The incident involved the material used in an experiment with the Ebola virus, the CDC said in a statement released late Wednesday. The material was accidentally moved from a high-security lab to a low-security lab on Monday. As a result, there's a possibility that one lab technician may have been exposed to the virus. That person will be monitored for 21 days for any symptoms.

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Around the Nation
2:21 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

FDA Allows Gay Men To Donate Blood

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 4:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shots - Health News
1:29 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Baby Thrives Once 3-D-Printed Windpipe Helps Him Breathe

Jake and Natalie Peterson and their son Garrett in October 2014.
Courtesy of Brittany Jacox

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 2:20 pm

Garrett Peterson was born in 2012 with a defective windpipe. It would periodically just collapse, because the cartilage was so soft, and he'd stop breathing. This would happen every day — sometimes multiple times a day.

"It was really awful to have to watch him go through his episodes," says his father, Jake Peterson of Layton, Utah. "He'd be fine and then all of a sudden start turning blue. It was just like watching your child suffocate over and over again."

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Shots - Health News
10:07 am
Thu December 4, 2014

CDC Warns That The Flu Season May Be A Bad One

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, got his flu shot in September.
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 5:21 pm

We may be in for a nasty flu season. That's the warning out today from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is worried because the most common strain of flu virus circulating in the United States is one called H3N2. In previous years, H3N2 strains have tended to send more people to the hospital than other strains — and cause more deaths, especially among the elderly, children and people with other health problems.

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Shots - Health News
4:24 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

FDA Considers Allowing Blood Donations From Some Gay Men

Several countries, including Australia, Japan and Great Britain, already encourage blood donations from some gay men.
Kevin Curtis Getty Images/Science Photo Library

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 9:50 am

The Food and Drug Administration is considering revising a ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men.

An FDA advisory committee Tuesday mulled the issues raised by changing the policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s.

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Shots - Health News
11:16 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Treatment For HIV Runs Low In U.S., Despite Diagnosis

A pharmacist pours Truvada pills, an HIV treatment, back into the bottle at Jack's Pharmacy in San Anselmo, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 10:35 am

About two-thirds of Americans who are infected with the virus that causes AIDS aren't getting treated for it.

The finding comes from an analysis just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that more needs to be done to make sure people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus get proper treatment.

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Shots - Health News
1:03 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Combining The DNA Of Three People Raises Ethical Questions

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 3:03 pm

In a darkened lab in the north of England, a research associate is intensely focused on the microscope in front of her. She carefully maneuvers a long glass tube that she uses to manipulate early human embryos.

"It's like microsurgery," says Laura Irving of Newcastle University.

Irving is part of a team of scientists trying to replace defective DNA with healthy DNA. They hope this procedure could one day help women who are carrying genetic disorders have healthy children.

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Global Health
3:13 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

CDC To Step Up Monitoring Of Travelers From Ebola-Affected Regions

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 4:28 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Health
2:24 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

CDC Releasing New Guidelines For Health Workers Treating Ebola

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 4:03 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Global Health
2:04 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Retracing Ebola's Steps

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 4:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Research News
4:37 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Study Finds Human Stem Cells May Help To Treat Patients

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For the first time ever, scientists are reporting that human embryonic stem cells may be helping treat patients. In the medical journal The Lancet, researchers describe how the cells seem to help restore eyesight to some blind people.

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Shots - Health News
4:56 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Embryonic Stem Cells Restore Vision In Preliminary Human Test

Isabella Beukes, of Santa Rosa, Calif., has been legally blind for more than 40 years. An experimental treatment derived from embryonic stem cells seems to have enabled her now to see not just color but also some shapes.
Tim Hussin for NPR

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 9:39 am

Scientists are reporting the first strong evidence that human embryonic stem cells may be helping patients.

The cells appear to have improved the vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two progressive, currently incurable eye diseases.

The researchers stress that the findings must be considered preliminary because the number of patients treated was relatively small and they have only been followed for an average of less than two years.

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Around the Nation
3:00 am
Mon October 13, 2014

'Breach In Protocol" Suspected In 2nd Texas Ebola Case

Originally published on Mon October 13, 2014 11:25 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shots - Health News
10:18 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin

Insulin is produced by the green cells that are in clusters about the same size as the islets in the human pancreas. The red cells are producing another metabolic hormone, glucagon, that prevents low blood sugar.
Harvard University

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 4:28 pm

A team of Harvard scientists said Thursday that they had finally found a way to turn human embryonic stem cells into cells that produce insulin. The long-sought advance could eventually lead to new ways to help millions of people with diabetes.

Right now, many people with diabetes have to regularly check the level of sugar in their blood and inject themselves with insulin to keep the sugar in their blood in check. It's an imperfect treatment.

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Around the Nation
3:02 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Authorities Find Man Who Had Contact With Dallas Ebola Patient

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 10:32 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Health officials in Dallas can do little more than watch and wait. They're monitoring 48 people and looking for signs they may have been infected with Ebola.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Research News
2:58 am
Mon October 6, 2014

'Inner GPS' Discovery Wins Nobel Prize In Medicine

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 10:32 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Health
3:06 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Researchers Aim For Wider Genetic Screening For Breast Cancer

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 6:11 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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