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.

Scientists on the hunt for anti-aging drugs say they've made an advance with tantalizing potential: Two experimental drugs appear to safely boost the immune systems of elderly humans.

The researchers stress that more research is needed to confirm the findings and show the drugs are safe. And at least one researcher says the findings are based on a relatively small number of people and used methods that could produce misleading results.

Still, many researchers say the findings are encouraging.

A genetically modified poliovirus may help some patients fight a deadly form of brain cancer, researchers report.

The experimental treatment seems to have extended survival in a small group of patients with glioblastoma who faced a grim prognosis because standard treatments had failed, Duke University researchers say.

Rita Adele Steyn's mother had a double mastectomy in her 40s because she had so many lumps in her breasts. Her first cousin died of breast cancer. And Steyn's sister is going through chemotherapy for the disease now. Steyn worries she might be next.

"Sometimes you feel like you beat the odds. And sometimes you feel like the odds are against you," said Steyn, 42, who lives in Tampa, Fla. "And right now I feel like the odds are against me."

Doctors shouldn't routinely perform electrocardiograms on patients at low risk for heart disease, an influential federal panel is recommending.

While an ECG test of the heart's electrical activity is safe and inexpensive, the benefits for patients at low risk of heart disease are very low and the results can trigger possibly dangerous, unnecessary follow-up testing and treatment, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

On the third floor of a big Soviet-era apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the mother of one of the world's first babies created with DNA from three different people cracks open her door.

"Hello; my name is Tamara," she whispers, to avoid waking her son from his nap.

In a clinic on a side street in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, doctors are doing something that, as far as is publicly known, is being done nowhere else in the world: using DNA from three different people to create babies for women who are infertile.

Doctors at the National Institutes of Health say they've apparently completely eradicated cancer from a patient who had untreatable, advanced breast cancer.

The case is raising hopes about a new way to harness the immune system to fight some of the most common cancers. The methods and the patient's experience are described Monday in a paper published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Updated at 1:54 p.m.

A prescription painkiller that has been under a cloud for more than a decade is apparently safer than previously believed, a Food and Drug Administration panel concluded Wednesday.

Gene therapy is showing promise for treating one of the most common genetic disorders.

Results of a study published Wednesday show that 15 of 22 patients with beta-thalassemia who got gene therapy were able to stop or sharply reduce the regular blood transfusions they had needed to alleviate their life-threatening anemia. There were no serious side effects.

In E.B. White's classic children's story Stuart Little, the eponymous mouse lives happily with a New York City family.

But Dr. Ian Lipkin wanted to know whether cohabiting with a mouse may be hazardous to one's health.

So Lipkin and his colleagues at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health spent a year collecting mice from throughout New York City to see whether they carry any dangerous germs.

Losing your nest egg is apparently hazardous to your health — very hazardous.

An analysis involving more than 8,000 Americans found that those who suffered a "negative wealth shock" — defined as losing at least 75 percent of their wealth in two years — faced a 50 percent increased risk of dying over the next two decades.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it wants to sharply reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The idea is to help wean millions of smokers off their deadly habit and prevent millions more from becoming regular smokers in the first place.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first test that Americans can get without a doctor to see if they are carrying genetic mutations that increase their risk for cancer. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has details.

There's more bad news about the nation's devastating opioid epidemic.

In just one year, overdoses from opioids jumped by about 30 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hopes were dashed this week that the United States was finally making progress in the fight against childhood obesity.

Contrary to previous reports, the epidemic of fat has not abated. In fact, there's been a big jump in obesity among the nation's youngest children, according to the latest analysis of federal data, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Shaorong Deng is sitting up in bed at the Hangzhou Cancer Hospital waiting for his doctor. Thin and frail, the 53-year-old construction worker's coat drapes around his shoulders to protect against the chilly air.

Deng has advanced cancer of the esophagus, a common form of cancer in China. He went through radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer kept spreading.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This year's nasty flu season has become deadly. The virus has spread across the country and shows few signs of slowing down. It's even getting worse in a lot of places. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us. Rob, thanks so much for being with us.

A tobacco product that its maker claims to be safer than cigarettes won qualified support from a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Thursday.

The advisers voted 8-1 to support cigarette giant Philip Morris' claim that its "iQOS" system "significantly reduces your body's exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals." The device heats tobacco but doesn't ignite it.

Chinese researchers have finally figured out how to clone a primate, using the same technique Scottish researchers devised to clone the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, in the mid-1990s.

The United States appears to be in the midst of an unusually severe flu season, officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The flu season started early, which is never a good sign, and the flu is already widespread throughout the country, the CDC's latest report shows. Half of states are reporting especially intense flu activity.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

Scientists have now edited genes inside mice to prevent a form of inherited deafness.

While cautioning that much more research is needed, the scientists said they hope the technique might someday be used to prevent deafness in children born in families with a history of genetic hearing loss.

Before that could happen, however, extensive tests would be needed to determine whether the treatment is safe — and whether it would actually work in humans.

The Food and Drug Administration Tuesday approved the first gene therapy to treat an inherited disease.

The treatment is called Luxturna, a genetically modified virus that ferries a healthy gene into the eyes of patients born with retinal dystrophy, a rare condition that destroys cells in the retina needed for healthy vision.

Updated at 4:17 p.m. ET to include comment from homeopathic pharmacists.

The Food and Drug Administration said it plans to crack down on the sale of some homeopathic products.

The agency unveiled a new, risk-based approach to regulating homeopathic treatments Monday that aims to protect the public from dangerous products.

Editor's note, Jan. 17: Some identifying information has been removed from this report to guard the privacy of the family that is part of the probiotics test.

It's a typical hectic morning at Michele's house in Northern Virginia when she gets a knock on her front door.

Health officials are warning that the United States may have an unusually harsh flu season this year.

But they stress that flu seasons are notoriously difficult to predict, and it's far too early to know for sure what may happen.

Eli Wheatley and Christian Guardino are among a growing number of patients whose lives are apparently being saved or radically improved by gene therapy.

Wheatley, 3, of Lebanon, Ky., and Guardino, 17, of Patchogue, N.Y., were both diagnosed with what were long thought to be incurable genetic disorders. In the past, Wheatley's condition would have probably killed him before his first birthday. Guardino's would have blinded him early in life.

But after receiving experimental gene therapies, both seem to be doing fine.

Federal health officials Tuesday issued a warning about kratom, a herbal product being promoted as a safe alternative to opioids for pain that is also marketed for treating addiction, anxiety and depression.

The Food and Drug Administration says there's insufficient evidence the supplement works to treat addiction or other problems and cited growing evidence it can be dangerous. Kratom may cause seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

It's a Sunday morning at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a famous African-American church in the Harlem area of New York City. The organist plays as hundreds of worshippers stream into the pews. The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III steps to the pulpit.

"Now may we stand for our call to worship," says Butts, as he begins a powerful three-hour service filed with music, dancing, prayers and preaching. "How good and pleasant it is when all of God's children get together."

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