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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3:08pm

Tue June 18, 2013
Shots - Health News

FDA Backs Off On Regulation Of Fecal Transplants

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 10:34 am

Bad bug: The bacterium Clostridium difficile kills 14,000 people in the United States each year.
Janice Carr CDC/dapd

Federal regulators are dropping plans to tightly control a procedure that is becoming increasingly popular for treating people stricken by life-threatening infections of the digestive system.

The Food and Drug Administration says the agency will exercise enforcement discretion and no longer require doctors to get the agency's approval before using "fecal microbiota for transplantation."

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4:08pm

Thu June 6, 2013
Science

Girl's Need Breathes Life Into Debate Over Organ Allocation

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 5:38 pm

Sarah Murnaghan, on May 30, as she and her parents marked the 100th day of her stay in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Murnaghan family AP

The case of a Pennsylvania girl who is dying from cystic fibrosis has sparked an emotional debate over how the nation allocates lungs for transplantation.

Ten-year-old Sarah Murnaghan is in intensive care at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia awaiting a lung transplant. Under the current rules, lungs from adults are offered to other adults and adolescents before being offered to children younger than 12.

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5:08pm

Wed May 29, 2013
Shots - Health News

Disinfect All ICU Patients To Reduce 'Superbug' Infections

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 4:41 pm

To fight antibiotic-resistant staph germs like these, a study suggests disinfecting the skin of all intensive care patients.
Janice Carr CDC

Hospitals can sharply reduce the spread of the drug-resistant bacteria in their intensive care units by decontaminating all patients rather than screening them and focusing only on those found to be infected already, researchers reported Wednesday.

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1:18pm

Wed May 22, 2013
Shots - Health News

Research Reveals Yeasty Beasts Living On Our Skin

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 11:20 am

Fungi (cyan) surround a human hair within the skin. A study in the journal Nature shows the population of fungi on human skin is more diverse that previously thought.
Alex Valm, Ph.D.

Scientists have completed an unusual survey: a census of the fungi that inhabit different places on our skin. It's part of a big scientific push to better understand the microbes that live in and on our bodies.

"This is the first study of our fungi, which are yeast and other molds that live on the human body," says Julie Segre, of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who led the survey.

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4:38am

Thu May 16, 2013
Health

Stem Cell Milestone Revives Intense Ethical Debate

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 5:56 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

We're going to look closely this morning at a dramatic advance in science.

GREENE: And also its far-reaching implications. The advance involves embryonic stem cell research.

INSKEEP: Which scientists see as a route to dramatic advances in medical treatment. Researchers have now figured out how to make embryonic stem cells that carry a specific individual's DNA.

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12:13pm

Wed May 15, 2013
Shots - Health News

Scientists Clone Human Embryos To Make Stem Cells

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 11:57 am

A scientist removes the nucleus from a human egg using a pipette. This is the first step to making personalized embryonic stem cells.
Courtesy of OHSU Photos

Scientists say they have, for the first time, cloned human embryos capable of producing embryonic stem cells.

The accomplishment is a long-sought step toward harnessing the potential power of embryonic stem cells to treat many human diseases. But the work also raises a host of ethical concerns.

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3:43am

Mon May 6, 2013
Shots - Health News

Parents' Saliva On Pacifiers Could Ward Off Baby's Allergies

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 10:33 am

Sucking may be one of the most beneficial ways to clean a baby's dirty pacifier, a study found
iStockphoto.com

That word "microbiome" — describing the collection of bacteria that live in and on our bodies — keeps popping up. This time, researchers say that children whose parents clean their pacifiers by sucking them might be less likely to develop allergic conditions because of how their parents' saliva changes their microbiomes.

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6:25pm

Wed April 24, 2013
Shots - Health News

Gut Bacteria's Belch May Play A Role In Heart Disease

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 10:38 am

More than just a tenant: Enterococcus faecalis thrives in the human intestine with a varied jumble of other bacteria that help us digest food.
National Institutes of Health

Scientists have discovered what may be an important new risk factor for heart disease. And here's the surprising twist: The troublesome substance seems to be a waste product left behind by bacteria in our guts as they help us digest lecithin — a substance plentiful in red meat, eggs, liver and certain other foods.

Doctors say the research further illustrates the complicated relationship we have with the microbes living inside us, and could lead to new ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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7:17pm

Wed April 10, 2013
Shots - Health News

How Much Does It Hurt? Let's Scan Your Brain

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:16 pm

A technique for imaging the brain allowed researchers to distinguish between physical and emotional pain.
Courtesy of Tom Wager

Scientists reported Wednesday that they had developed a way to measure how much pain people are experiencing by scanning their brains.

The researchers hope the technique will help doctors treat pain better, but the work is also raising concerns about whether the technique might interfere with doctors simply listening to their patients.

Now, when someone is in pain, a doctor has no way to judge its severity except to ask questions, a method that often is inadequate.

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2:57pm

Thu April 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Researchers Use Brain Scans To Reveal Hidden Dreamscape

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 2:57 pm

A window into dreams may now be opening.
Silver Screen Collection Getty Images

Scientists say they have found a way to get a glimpse of people's dreams.

"Our results show that we can predict what a person's seeing during dreams," says Yukiyasu Kamitani, a researcher at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan.

Philosophers, poets and psychologists have long shared a fascination with dreams. But Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley says solving the mystery of our dreams is one tough problem.

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