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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.

There are new concerns about the world's first genetically modified babies.

It appears that the genetic variation a Chinese scientist was trying to re-create when he edited twin girls' DNA may be more harmful than helpful to health overall, according to a study published Monday. The study, in Nature Medicine, involves the DNA of more than 400,000 people.

In the hope of finding a new way to fight malaria, scientists have used a spider gene to genetically engineer a fungus to produce a venom that can quickly kill mosquitoes.

The modified fungus was a highly effective mosquito killer in the first tests mimicking conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria remains a major public health problem, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved a gene therapy for a rare childhood disorder that is now the most expensive drug on the market. It costs $2.125 million per patient.

But for those patients lucky enough to get it, it appears it can save their lives with a one-time treatment.

Three-year-old Donovan Weisgarber is one of those patients. When he was born he seemed perfectly healthy. But within weeks, it became clear something was terribly wrong.

Alphonso Evans rolls his wheelchair into a weight machine in the gym at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga.

"I'm not so much worried about dying from a heart attack or diabetes, because I'm active. I know what to do to work against it: watch what I eat, exercise," Evans says. "But what do I do about an infection? Or fighting off a bacteria — something inside me that I don't see until it's too late?"

For the first time, scientists have used genetically modified viruses to treat a patient fighting an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Isabelle Carnell-Holdaway, 17, began the experimental treatment after doctors lost all hope. She was struggling with a life-threatening infection after a lung transplant. With the new treatment, she has not been completely cured. But the Faversham, England, teenager has recovered so much that she has resumed a near-normal life.

The powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR has been in the news a lot. And not all the news has been good: A Chinese scientist stunned the world last year when he announced he had used CRISPR to create genetically modified babies.

A group of prominent scientists and bioethicists is calling for a global moratorium on any new attempts to bring gene-edited babies into the world.

"We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children," the 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries write in an article published Wednesday by the journal Nature.

Instead of eating a typical breakfast every day, Jonah Reeder gulps down a special protein shake.

"The nutrients in it like to sit at the bottom, so I usually have to shake it up and get all the nutrients from the protein and everything," says Reeder, 21, of Farmington, Utah, as he shakes a big plastic bottle.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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