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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Research News
5:11 am
Thu April 4, 2013

Study: Record Number Of People Are Cohabitating

More and more Americans are opting to live together before they get married. That's according to new federal data. And on average, cohabitations last about 22 months compared to 13 months in 1995.

Shots - Health News
5:16 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

China's Air Pollution Linked To Millions Of Early Deaths

Men walk along a railway line in Beijing on Jan. 12, as air pollution reached hazardous levels.
Wang Zhao AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 2:25 pm

More than 1 million people are dying prematurely every year from air pollution in China, according to a new analysis.

"This is the highest toll in the world and it really reflects the very high levels of air pollution that exist in China today," says Robert O'Keefe of the Health Effects Institute in Boston, who presented the findings in Beijing this week.

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Shots - Health News
3:16 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Bioethics Panel Warns Against Anthrax Vaccine Testing On Kids

The anthrax vaccine has been given to more than 1 million adults in the military. But no one knows how well it would work in children.
Randy Davey Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 10:42 am

A controversial government proposal to test the anthrax vaccine in children would be unethical without first conducting much more research, a presidential commission concluded Tuesday.

"The federal government would have to take multiple steps before anthrax vaccine trials with children could be ethically considered," Amy Gutmann, who chairs the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, tells Shots. "It would not be ethical to do it today."

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Shots - Health News
1:10 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Americans More Distracted Behind The Wheel Than Europeans

A woman uses a cellphone while driving in Los Angeles in 2011.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 4:34 pm

U.S. drivers are much more likely than Europeans to drive while distracted, federal health officials report Thursday.

Nearly 69 percent of Americans who drive say that they talked on their cell phones while driving at least once in the previous month, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's a lot higher than what was reported by Europeans in another survey. Only 21 percent of British drivers reported chatting on their cell phones while behind the wheel, for example. In Germany and France it was about 40 percent.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Infections With 'Nightmare Bacteria' Are On The Rise In U.S. Hospitals

Klebsiella pneumoniae, seen here with an electron microscope, are the most common superbugs causing highly drug-resistant infections in hospitals.
Kwangshin Kim Science Source

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 4:34 pm

Federal officials warned Tuesday that an especially dangerous group of superbugs has become a significant health problem in hospitals throughout the United States.

These germs, known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, have become much more common in the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the risk they pose to health is becoming evident.

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Shots - Health News
3:26 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Pediatricians Urged To Treat Ear Infections More Cautiously

Giancario Gemignani-Hernandez, 2, of Pittsburgh has his ear examined by Dr. Alejandro Hoberman.
Gene J. Puskar AP

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 6:40 pm

Hoping to reduce unnecessary antibiotics use, the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday issued new guidelines for how doctors should diagnose and treat ear infections.

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Shots - Health News
4:54 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Flu Vaccine Has Been Feeble For Elderly This Season

Kimberly Delp gives a flu shot to Carleen Matthews at the Homewood Senior Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., last September.
Andrew Rush AP

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 1:25 pm

This year's flu vaccine appears to be doing a unusually poor job of protecting the elderly, federal health officials reported Thursday.

Overall, this year's flu vaccine appears to be only about 27 percent effective for people ages 65 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Shots - Health News
4:18 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Popular Workout Booster Draws Safety Scrutiny

Some sports supplements contain the ingredient DMAA. The FDA has warned that DMAA may not be safe.
iStockphoto.com

Richard Kessinger loves to hit the gym. But some days he needs a little something to get him pumped up for his weightlifting routine.

"You might be a little bit sore. You might be tired. You might have had too many beers the day before," says Kessinger, 23, of Arlington, Va. "So you might start putting up a set and you get a few reps in and you're like, 'I'm not feeling this. I can't keep going.' "

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Shots - Health News
5:32 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Aging Poorly: Another Act Of Baby Boomer Rebellion

Health researchers say the proportion of people in their late 40s to 60s with diabetes, hypertension or obesity has increased over the past two decades.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:40 am

Baby boomers have a reputation for being addicted to exercise and obsessed with eating well.

But that story didn't jibe with what physician Dana E. King and his colleagues see walking through the door of their family practice every day in Morgantown, W.Va.

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Shots - Health News
4:47 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

To Fight Addiction, FDA Advisers Endorse Limits On Vicodin

An FDA advisory panel voted to increase controls on painkillers containing hydrocodone, such as this generic version of Vicodin.
Sue Ogrocki Associated Press

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 2:38 pm

A key federal panel Friday recommended placing new restrictions on Vicodin and similar prescription painkillers.

At the conclusion of an emotional two-day hearing, the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted 19-10 to recommend the agency change how drugs that contain the opioid hydrocodone are classified as controlled substances.

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Shots - Health News
3:29 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Painkiller Paradox: Feds Struggle To Control Drugs That Help And Harm

Carolyn Tuft and her daughter Kirsten (seen here in 2005) were the victims of a shooting at a Salt Lake City mall in 2007. Kirsten was one of five bystanders killed, and Carolyn was left in severe pain.
Courtesy of Carolyn Tuft

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 1:38 pm

A few years ago, a doctor started prescribing Michael Israel painkillers for bad cramps in his gut. Israel had been struggling with Crohn's disease, a chronic digestive disorder, since he was a teenager.

"So he was prescribed, you know, Lortab, or Vicodin or whatever. You know, they would flip-flop it from one to another," says Avi Israel, Michael's father.

Then one day, Michael confessed that something was wrong.

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Shots - Health News
1:49 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

CDC: Flu Season Is Especially Tough On The Elderly

Sonia Despiar, right, a nurse with Gouverneur Healthcare Services, injects Imelda Silva with flu vaccine on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in New York. At least 10 elderly people and two children in New York have died from the flu and hospitalizations are climbing as the illness hits every county in the state.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Federal health officials say this year's flu season shaping up to be especially severe for the elderly.

According to the latest update from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people age 65 and older who are getting the flu jumped sharply in the last week or so. They are being hospitalized at a rate of about 82 per 100,000 cases. That's the rate that is seen during severe seasons, officials said.

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Shots - Health News
1:47 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

CDC Says Flu Could Be Waning In Places, But Worst May Not Be Over

Registered nurse Michelle Newbury and physician assistant Scott Fillman see patients Thursday in a tent set up for people with flu symptoms, just outside the emergency entrance at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 2:45 pm

Federal healthy officials said Friday there are some early signs this year's flu season may be easing in some parts of the country. But they stressed it's far too early to tell whether the flu season has peaked.

The number of states reporting widespread flu activity is up to 47, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But flu activity nationally fell slightly in the CDC's most recent data. Five states reported less flu than a week earlier, according to the CDC.

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Shots - Health News
1:25 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Wake-Up Call: FDA Pushes Drugmakers To Weaken Sleeping Pills

Tim Boyle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 6:26 pm

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it was requiring companies that make Ambien and similar sleeping pills to sharply cut the doses of the drugs.

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Shots - Health News
2:05 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Geneticists Breach Ethical Taboo By Changing Genes Across Generations

An image of researchers at Oregon Health & Science University removing the nucleus from the mother's cell before it's inserted into the donor's egg cell.
Courtesty of Oregon Health & Science University

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 2:21 pm

Geneticist reported Wednesday that they had crossed a threshold long considered off-limits: They have made changes in human DNA that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

The researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland say they took the step to try to prevent women from giving birth to babies with genetic diseases. But the research is raising a host of ethical, social and moral questions.

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Shots - Health News
5:00 am
Fri October 19, 2012

Freezing Eggs To Make Babies Later Moves Toward Mainstream

Human embryos under a microscope at an IVF clinic in La Jolla, Calif.
Sandy Huffaker Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 1:03 pm

Doctors who specialize in treating infertility are making a big change in their position on a controversial practice. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has concluded that freezing women's eggs to treat infertility should no longer be considered "experimental."

The group plans to officially announce the change on Monday.

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Science
4:41 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

Cloning and Stem Cell Discoveries Earn Nobel in Medicine

Originally published on Mon October 8, 2012 5:38 pm

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced Monday in Sweden to two scientists: John Gurdon of England and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. The two will share the prize for their landmark work on stem cells. These cells hold great promise for treating human disease but they are also a source of controversy.

Shots - Health Blog
2:28 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Scientists Create Fertile Eggs From Mouse Stem Cells

Each of these mouse pups was born from an egg scientists created using embryonic stem cells. It's possible the technology could change future treatment for human infertility.
Katsuhiko Hayashi

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 8:45 pm

Scientists in Japan report they have created eggs from stem cells in a mammal for the first time. And the researchers went on to breed healthy offspring from the eggs they created.

While the experiments involved mice, the work is being met with excitement — and questions — about doing the same thing for humans someday.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:31 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Will Low-Cost Genome Sequencing Open 'Pandora's Box'?

The Proton Semiconductor Sequencer from Ion Torrent Systems Inc. is a new DNA sequencing machine designed to sequence the entire human genome in about eight hours for $1,000.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 10:54 am

Beau Gunderson's fascinated by what he might learn from his DNA.

"I'm curious about what makes me tick, essentially," says Gunderson, 29, who writes code for a Silicon Valley startup.

So Gunderson has signed up for every genetic test he's been able to afford. And he can't wait for the price of getting his entire genetic code — his genome — to drop to about $1,000, as many are predicting is imminent.

"Yeah, if the price does drop — to a thousand bucks for example — I might pay that. That's a good personal price point for me," Gunderson said.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:19 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Doctors Sift Through Patients' Genomes To Solve Medical Mysteries

Sara Terry and her son, Christian, in Spring, Texas. After sequencing Christian's genome, doctors were able to diagnose him with a Noonan-like syndrome.
Eric Kayne for NPR

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 12:00 pm

Sara Terry's first clue that something was wrong with her son, Christian, came just three weeks after he was born.

"We went to check on him, just like any parents go and check on their kids just to make sure they're breathing," says Terry, 34, of Spring, Texas. "And we found him in his crib, and he wasn't breathing. He was blue."

She and her husband were horrified. They rushed Christian to the hospital and learned he had several medical problems.

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