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.

Pages

3:57pm

Tue June 9, 2015
Shots - Health News

The Hard Work Of Waiting For A Hand Transplant

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 3:09 pm

Kevin Lopez makes breakfast with his sister Jenny. He is waiting for a donor hand to remedy a genetic defect.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Kevin Lopez remembers exactly when he knew he wasn't like his friends and family.

"It just hit me one day," he says. It was the morning he was picking out a shirt to wear for his first day of sixth grade. "I just looked at myself and I realized I was different."

Kevin was born missing the fingers on his right hand. His arm and wrist are fully developed, and he has most of a regular palm. But he just has nubs where his fingers should start.

Read more

11:34am

Thu June 4, 2015
Shots - Health News

Advisers To FDA Recommend Agency Approve Drug To Boost Female Libido

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 4:13 pm

The experimental drug flibanserin, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of a regulatory controversy.
Allen Breed AP

Update 4:40 p.m.: The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted 18 to 6 to recommend that the agency approve flibanserin, as long as there are measures in place to make sure that women are aware of its risks, including low blood pressure and fainting. The FDA doesn't have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels but usually does.


A committee of medical advisers meets Thursday to consider whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve the first drug that aims to boost a woman's libido.

Read more

1:14pm

Tue May 12, 2015
Shots - Health News

Seasons May Tweak Genes That Trigger Some Chronic Diseases

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 3:26 pm

The seasons appear to influence when certain genes are active, with those associated with inflammation being more active in the winter, according to new research released Tuesday.

Read more

5:19pm

Thu May 7, 2015
Shots - Health News

DNA 'Printing' A Big Boon To Research, But Some Raise Concerns

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 9:40 pm

Cambrian Genomics says that what it calls a DNA printer is essentially a DNA sorter — it quickly spots and collects the desired, tailored stretch of DNA.
Courtesy of Cambrian Genomics

Here's something that might sound strange: There are companies now that print and sell DNA.

This trend — which uses the term "print" in the sense of making a bunch of copies speedily — is making particular stretches of DNA much cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before. That excites many scientists who are keen to use these tailored strings of genetic instructions to do all sorts of things, ranging from finding new medical treatments to genetically engineering better crops.

Read more

3:10pm

Mon April 27, 2015
Shots - Health News

Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water

Originally published on Sun May 3, 2015 8:56 pm

iStockphoto

Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

Read more

9:45am

Thu April 23, 2015
Shots - Health News

Critics Lash Out At Chinese Scientists Who Edited DNA In Human Embryos

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 12:34 pm

iStockphoto

For the first time, scientists have edited DNA in human embryos, a highly controversial step long considered off limits.

Junjiu Huang and his colleagues at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, performed a series of experiments involving 86 human embryos to see if they could make changes in a gene known as HBB, which causes the sometimes fatal blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

Read more

4:08pm

Wed April 22, 2015
Shots - Health News

Why Do Mosquitoes Like To Bite You Best? It's In Your Genes

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 12:19 pm

Mmm. Smells just like your identical twin.
iStockphoto

A study that asked a few dozen pairs of twins to brave a swarm of hungry mosquitoes has revealed another clue to the cluster of reasons the insects are more attracted to some people than others: Genes matter.

Read more

3:54pm

Tue April 21, 2015
Shots - Health News

Screening Tests For Breast Cancer Genes Just Got Cheaper

Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 3:29 pm

iStockphoto

A new California company announced Monday it is offering a much cheaper and easier way for women to get tested for genetic mutations that increase their risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Color Genomics of Burlingame, Calif., has begun selling a $249 test that it says can accurately analyze a saliva sample for mutations in the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, as well as check for 17 other genetic variants that have been associated with a somewhat increased risk for cancer of the breast or ovaries.

Read more

3:46am

Mon April 20, 2015
Shots - Health News

FDA Ponders Putting Homeopathy To A Tougher Test

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 11:08 am

Katherine Streeter for NPR

It's another busy morning at Dr. Anthony Aurigemma's homeopathy practice in Bethesda, Md.

Wendy Resnick, 58, is here because she's suffering from a nasty bout of laryngitis. "I don't feel great," she says. "I don't feel myself."

Resnick, who lives in Millersville, Md., has been seeing Aurigemma for years for a variety of health problems, including ankle and knee injuries and back problems. "I don't know what I would do without him," she says. "The traditional treatments just weren't helping me at all."

Read more

6:24pm

Thu April 16, 2015
Shots - Health News

Use Of E-Cigarettes Triples Among U.S. Teens

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 8:13 pm

Nicotine exposure at a young age "may cause lasting harm to brain development," warns Dr. Tom Frieden, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
iStockphoto

A national survey confirms earlier indications that e-cigarettes are now more popular among teenage students than traditional cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The findings prompted strong warnings from Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the effects of any form of nicotine on young people.

"We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age," Frieden said.

Read more

5:04pm

Wed April 15, 2015
Shots - Health News

Why Knuckles Crack

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 9:39 pm

NPR intern Poncie Rutsch takes a crack at making a big sound.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Scientists think they may have solved an old question about the cracking of knuckles: Why does it make that sound?

Read more

4:06pm

Mon April 6, 2015
Shots - Health News

Will A Transplanted Hand Feel Like His Own? Surgery Raises Questions

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 7:48 pm

Kevin Lopez at home in Greenbelt, Md.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

When Kevin Lopez opens the door to his Greenbelt, Md., apartment to greet a visitor he's never before met, he initially conceals his right hand.

"I'm self-conscious, definitely, about my right hand," he says. But eventually Lopez relaxes.

"I was born like this," he says. "As you can see, I don't have any fingers." It bothers the 20-year-old enough that he has volunteered to do something drastic: to have his right hand removed and replaced with another person's hand via surgery.

Read more

4:39pm

Wed April 1, 2015
Health

Arizona Requires Doctors To Say Abortion Pill Is Reversible

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 8:10 pm

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Arizona will now require doctors to tell women who use the so-called abortion pill that the procedure can be reversed. We asked NPR health correspondent Rob Stein whether that's true. Here's his report.

Read more

3:53am

Wed April 1, 2015
Shots - Health News

Tobacco Firm Seeks Softer Warning For Cigarette Alternative

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 5:50 pm

Will this maker of snus, an alternative to cigarettes, be allowed to claim it is less harmful?
Swedish Match

The Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether to allow a tobacco company to do something it's never done before — claim that one of its products is less risky than cigarettes.

The company, Swedish Match of Stockholm, has applied to the FDA to designate its General brand of snus (rhymes with "loose") as safer than other versions of tobacco.

Read more

5:12pm

Fri March 20, 2015
Shots - Health News

Scientists Urge Temporary Moratorium On Human Genome Edits

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 7:58 pm

Microbiologist Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley. She's co-inventor of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology — a tool that's recently made the snipping and splicing of genes much easier.
Cailey Cotner UC Berkeley

A new technology called CRISPR could allow scientists to alter the human genetic code for generations. That's causing some leading biologists and bioethicists to sound an alarm.

Read more

Pages