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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3:25am

Tue April 15, 2014
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 5:03 pm

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

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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4:18am

Mon March 17, 2014
Shots - Health News

Doctors Use 3-D Printing To Help A Baby Breathe

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 11:59 am

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

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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12:08pm

Wed March 12, 2014
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 9:31 pm

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

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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4:06pm

Tue March 11, 2014
Humans

Genetic Sequencing May Not Be Ready To Become Routine

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 6:51 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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5:43pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

Blood Test Provides More Accurate Prenatal Testing For Down Syndrome

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 11:24 am

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

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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4:22pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

Scientists Question Safety Of Genetically Altering Human Eggs

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

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

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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1:26pm

Thu February 20, 2014
Shots - Health News

Flu Strikes Younger Adults Hard This Year

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 2:42 pm

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

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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2:07pm

Wed February 5, 2014
Shots - Health News

An Artificial Arm Gives One Man The Chance To Feel Again

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 8:43 pm

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

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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3:45am

Tue February 4, 2014
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 8:12 am

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

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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3:39am

Mon January 20, 2014
Shots - Health News

Can Probiotics Help Soothe Colicky Babies?

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 3:53 pm

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

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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3:07am

Mon November 18, 2013
Shots - Health News

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 12:58 pm

Illustration by Benjamin Arthur for NPR

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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1:46pm

Wed November 6, 2013
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 3:27 pm

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

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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3:45am

Mon November 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

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

Originally published on Thu October 23, 2014 11:49 am

Benjamin Arthur for NPR

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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3:16am

Mon November 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Getting Your Microbes Analyzed Raises Big Privacy Issues

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 3:28 pm

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

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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6:24pm

Thu October 24, 2013
Shots - Health News

FDA Seeks To Tighten Controls On Hydrocodone Painkillers

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 6:50 pm

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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