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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5:08pm

Wed January 21, 2015
Shots - Health News

E-Cigarettes Can Churn Out High Levels Of Formaldehyde

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:35 am

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

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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1:42pm

Thu January 15, 2015
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 7:21 pm

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

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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3:17am

Thu January 8, 2015
Shots - Health News

Specialists Split Over HPV Test's Role In Cancer Screening

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 12:49 pm

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

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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3:28am

Wed December 31, 2014
Shots - Health News

Potent Powdered Caffeine Raises Safety Worries

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 7:32 am

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

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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4:26pm

Fri December 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

One More Reason To Reach For A Paper Book Before Bed

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 8:18 am

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

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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5:48pm

Wed December 24, 2014
The Two-Way

Mishandling Of Ebola Sample May Have Exposed CDC Technician To Virus

Originally published on Fri December 26, 2014 1:54 pm

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

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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4:21pm

Tue December 23, 2014
Around the Nation

FDA Allows Gay Men To Donate Blood

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 6:26 pm

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

3:29am

Tue December 23, 2014
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 4:20 pm

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

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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12:07pm

Thu December 4, 2014
Shots - Health News

CDC Warns That The Flu Season May Be A Bad One

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 7:21 pm

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

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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5:43pm

Tue December 2, 2014
Shots - Health News

FDA Considers Allowing Blood Donations From Some Gay Men

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 11:50 am

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

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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1:16pm

Tue November 25, 2014
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 12:35 pm

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

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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3:03am

Mon November 10, 2014
Shots - Health News

Combining The DNA Of Three People Raises Ethical Questions

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 5:03 pm

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

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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6:37am

Wed October 15, 2014
Research News

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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6:33pm

Tue October 14, 2014
Shots - Health News

Embryonic Stem Cells Restore Vision In Preliminary Human Test

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 11:39 am

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

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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12:05pm

Thu October 9, 2014
Shots - Health News

Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 6:28 pm

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

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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