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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, and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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.

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.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

There's strong new evidence that a common childhood vaccine is safe.

A large study released Monday finds no evidence that the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella increases the risk of autism. The study of children born in Denmark is one of the largest ever of the MMR vaccine.

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."

The World Health Organization Thursday announced the formation of an international committee aimed at establishing uniform guidelines for editing human DNA in ways that can be passed down to future generations.

The 18-member committee "will examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges associated with human genome editing," according to the WHO announcement.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Many parents give their kids probiotics when they get stomach bugs. But do these supplements really help curb the vomiting and diarrhea?

The answer — at least for two popular probiotics — appears to be: No.

"We have shown in two very large and rigorous studies that these particular probiotics do not work. They had no effect," says David Schnadower, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

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.

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