Health Highlights: May 27, 2015

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Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

White House Puts Hold on Type of Gene Engineering

Genetic engineering that makes DNA changes that are passed along to future generations should be put on hold until more is known about possible consequences, the Obama administration says.

Altering DNA that is passed from parents to children is called germline editing. In a blog posting, the White House chief science adviser said it could take years or even generations to fully understand the effects of germline editing, even if it is done with the goal of curing inherited diseases, NBC News reported.

"The Administration believes that altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time," Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote.

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine plan to hold an international meeting in the fall to discuss the issue, NBC News reported.

"It is important that the NAS' international summit fully explore the implications of germline editing for the current generation and generations to come across the globe, as well as the potential for alternative technologies that do not require germline alteration to deliver similar medical promise," Holdren wrote.

One goal of germline editing would be to cure inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease. In such cases, parents' genes would be altered so they do not pass disease-causing mutations to their children, NBC News reported.

However, the unknown side effects could be dangerous, Holdren warned.

"The advances in health technology over the past century -- vaccines, antibiotics, early disease diagnostics, and treatment for countless health conditions -- have reduced infant mortality, extended life expectancy, and alleviated suffering for millions," Holdren wrote.

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GMO-Free Similac Advance Baby Formula Announced

Similac Advance baby formula made without genetically altered ingredients will be available by the end of the month in Target stores, according to product maker Abbott.

That will make Similac Advance -- the top commercial baby formula brand in the U.S. -- the first non-GMO version of a mainstream baby formula in the country, according to The New York Times.

Abbott also plans to introduce a non-GMO version of Similac Sensitive. If sales of the two new products are good, the company may introduce other GMO-free baby formulas.

Most mainstream baby formulas use corn and soy, and more than 90 percent of those crops in the U.S. are grown from genetically-modified seeds, The Times reported.

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