Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 30 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's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He was twice part of NPR teams that won Peabody Awards.

Stein frequently represents NPR, speaking at universities, international meetings and other venues, including the University of Cambridge in Britain, the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, and the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.

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.

In February, scientists started releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes in a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

NPR was the only news organization allowed into the lab to witness the first releases. Correspondent Rob Stein reported on the start of the experiment: "Scientists Release Controversial Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In High-Security Lab."

Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned.

For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy.

"This will really be a breakthrough experiment," says Ruth Mueller, an entomologist who runs the lab. "It's a historic moment."

A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned.

For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.

Vaping by U.S. teenagers has reached epidemic levels, threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine.

That's according to an unusual advisory issued Tuesday by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams about the the dangers of electronic cigarette use among U.S. teenagers.

There's yet more disturbing news about kids vaping nicotine.

Vaping jumped dramatically again among high school students between 2017 and 2018.

In fact, it was the biggest one-year spike of any kind in the 44 years the Monitoring the Future survey has been tracking substance abuse by young people.

Three of the most influential scientific organizations in the world are calling for an urgent international effort to prevent scientists from creating any more gene-edited babies without proper approval and supervision.

Global standards are needed quickly to ensure gene-editing of human embryos moves ahead safely and ethically, according to the presidents of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Ever since a Chinese scientist rocked the world by claiming he had created gene-edited twin girls, international outrage has only intensified.

A Chinese scientist's claims that he created the world's first gene-edited babies is a "deeply disturbing" and "irresponsible" violation of international scientific norms, according to a formal conclusion issued Thursday by organizers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong.

But the summit rejected calls for a blanket moratorium on such research, saying that the work could eventually lead to new ways to prevent a long list of serious genetic diseases.

Updated at 6:15 a.m. ET

The scientist who stunned the world by claiming he created the first genetically modified babies defended his actions publicly for the first time on Wednesday, saying that editing the genes of the twin girls while they were embryos would protect them from contracting HIV.

He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, addressed hundreds of scientists gathered at an international gene- editing summit in Hong Kong that has been rocked by ethical questions swirling around his research.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:52 a.m. to add information about an ethics committee investigation into the DNA-editing experiment.

For the first time, a scientist claims to have used a powerful new gene-editing technique to create genetically modified human babies.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it will seek a ban on the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes.

The announcement came as the agency officially released a detailed plan to also restrict the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes. It also wants to ban flavored cigars.

The number of children being stricken by a mysterious paralyzing condition continues to increase, federal officials say.

At least 252 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far this year from 27 states, including 90 that have been confirmed through Nov. 9, the CDC reported Tuesday.

Most of the cases have occurred among children between the ages of 2 and 8.

Danielle Vukadinovich is sitting up in a hospital bed at the Inova Women's Hospital in Falls Church, Va., waiting to give birth.

"I feel good, I'm excited!" says Vukadinovich, 35, of Annandale, Va., "Nervous, but good!"

Vukadinovich is getting a cesarean section today. It's the second time for her — she underwent the surgical procedure 19 months ago when her twins were born.

Police in California made headlines this spring when they charged a former police officer with being the Golden State Killer, a man who allegedly committed a series of notorious rapes and murders in the 1970s and '80s.

Authorities revealed they used DNA from a publicly available genealogy website to crack the case.

Since then, police around the country have started doing the same sort of thing to solve other cold cases.

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a controversial new kind of genetic engineering can rapidly spread a self-destructive genetic modification through a complex species.

Scientists say they have taken a potentially important — and possibly controversial — step toward creating human eggs in a lab dish.

A team of Japanese scientists turned human blood cells into stem cells, which they then transformed into very immature human eggs.

The eggs are far too immature to be fertilized or make a baby. And much more research would be needed to create eggs that could be useful — and safe — for human reproduction.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A big, new study found the risks of taking a low-dose aspirin every day outweighs the benefits. This is for otherwise healthy older people. What about the rest of us? NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now to talk about it. Welcome to the studio, Rob.

Many healthy Americans take a baby aspirin every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack, getting cancer and even possibly dementia. But is it really a good idea?

Results released Sunday from a major study of low-dose aspirin contain a disappointing answer for older, otherwise healthy people.

It's early in the morning and 20-year-old Aaron Reid looks like he's sleepwalking.

His head nods forward and he shuffles a bit as he heads toward the pediatric clinic at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Reid, who has been fighting leukemia since he was 9-years old, is experiencing intense pain.

He can't say much at the moment, so his mother, Tracie Glascox, speaks for him. "He's been complaining of pain in his ankles, his knees and his arms," she tells the nurse.

The Food and Drug Administration announced a set of major new enforcement actions Wednesday aimed at reducing the sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes to teenagers.

Saying vaping among teenagers has reached "an epidemic proportion," the agency said it was taking a "series of critical and historic" measures to curb the alarming trends.

Editor's note: Story updated with additional information about generic pricing on August 17.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first identical alternative to the EpiPen, which is widely used to save children and adults suffering from dangerous allergic reactions.

The FDA Thursday authorized Teva Pharmaceuticals USA to sell generic versions of the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr for adults and children who weigh more than 33 pounds.

Aaron Reid is lying in a hospital bed at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center when doctors arrive to make sure he's ready for his experimental treatment.

"How's your night? Any issues?" asks Dr. Katherine Barnett, a pediatric oncologist, as they begin to examine Reid.

Reid, 20, of Lucedale, Miss., has been fighting leukemia since he was 9 years old. He has been through chemotherapy and radiation twice, a bone marrow transplant and two other treatments.

Since Zika emerged as a threat to babies, it has been a mystery exactly how much of a danger the mosquito-borne virus poses to children.

But now, the largest study to follow kids who were exposed to the virus in the womb is providing more answers.

The study involved 1,450 babies who had been exposed to the virus, and who were 1-year-old by February 2018. Six percent were born with birth defects, and 14 percent developed problems that could be blamed on the virus by the time they turned 1, the study found.

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.

Her name isn't really Tamara. She asked me to call her that to protect her family's privacy. She knows how unusual — and controversial — her baby might be to some people.

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.

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