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Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2017

Last Updated: February 14, 2017.

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

U.S. Should Allow Gene Editing to Prevent Serious Diseases: Report

Genetic alteration of human eggs, sperm and embryos in order to prevent babies from being born with genes known to cause serious diseases and disability should be allowed, according to a report released Tuesday by a leading U.S. science advisory group.

But this should only be done when there is no "reasonable alternative" and only when a plan is in place to monitor the effects of the genetic alternation through multiple generations, according to the group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, The New York Times reported.

The group acknowledged that its recommendation crosses a line that "many have viewed as ethically inviolable," but said in the past year, the techniques required for this type of gene editing have passed important milestones and forced experts to deal with ethical considerations.

"Previously, it was easy for people to say, 'This isn't possible, so we don't have to think about it much,' " report committee co-leader Richard Hynes, a cancer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Times reported.

"Now we can see a path whereby we might be able to do it, so we have to think about how to make sure it's used only for the right things and not for the wrong things," he explained.

The committee also realized that the technology would be adopted in other countries.

"If we have an absolute prohibition in the United States with this technology advancing, it's not like it won't happen," report comittee co-leader R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told The Times.

"We see an advantage of setting out a stringent regulation that guards against the uses that people are most fearing and signals to the rest of the world what it should look like when it's done right," Charo said.

However, critics fear the technology will eventually be used to engineer traits such as strength, beauty and intelligence.

"This opens the door to advertisements from fertility clinics of giving your child the best start in life with a gene-editing packet," Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest group based in Berkeley, Calif., told The Times.

"And whether these are real advantages or perceived advantages, they would accrue disproportionately to people who are already advantaged," she added.

Darnovsky noted that many European countries have signed a treaty to refrain from this technology.


Company Delays Launch of Drug for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

The U.S. launch of a drug for a rare disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy will be paused due to concerns about its price, Marathon Pharmaceuticals told patient advocates this week.

After its drug Emflaza was approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration, the company said it would cost $89,000 a year, which resulted in a barrage of criticism from patients and lawmakers, Kaiser Health News reported.

American patients and their families have been importing a generic version of the drug deflazocort for about $1,200 a year.

"Our goal in commercializing Emflaza all along has been to make it available to that broader set of patients who prior to FDA approval have not had access to the therapy We are pausing our launch, which has not yet taken place. We have not sold any new product and will pause that process," said a statement attributed to Marathon CEO Jeffrey Aronin that was read to a conference of parents, patients and advocates in Washington, D.C., Kaiser reported.

Marathon will continue to offer patients an expanded access program, which allows about 800 patients to receive the drug from the company, according to the statement.

It also said that more patients can join that program for free, and patients and their families can continue importing the generic version, Kaiser reported.


Exhaust Fumes Leaking Into Ford Explorers

Hundreds of Ford Explorer owners in the United States have reported exhaust fumes entering the vehicle while they're driving, but the automaker has not issued a notice to customers.

In July 2016, the National Highway Safety Administration launched an investigation, citing 154 customer complaints about exhaust in 2011-15 Ford Explorers, CBS News reported.

However, that's increased to 450 complaints that also include 2016 and 2017 models, according to CBS News.

"In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers," Ford told CBS News, and added that the problem "poses no safety risk."

However, Newport Beach police officer Brian McDowell suffered serious injuries when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police cruiser and crashed into a tree. He believes he passed out from exhaust fumes entering the vehicle and is suing Ford.

Last year, Ford settled a class action lawsuit filed in Florida, and another class action lawsuit filed in New Jersey against Ford is still pending, CBS News reported.


Hugh Jackman Being Treated for Skin Cancer Again

Actor Hugh Jackman is undergoing treatment for skin cancer again.

He revealed on Twitter and Instagram that he is once again receiving treatment for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. It's rarely fatal, CNN reported.

"Another basal cell carcinoma. Thanks to frequent body checks and amazing doctors, all is well. Looks worse with the dressing on than off. I swear! #wearsunscreen"

Jackman has previously been treated for basal cell carcinoma at least four times since 2013, according to CNN.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 80 percent of the 3.3 million skin cancer cases diagnosed every year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

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