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Health Highlights: Nov. 8, 2017

Last Updated: November 08, 2017.

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

Gene-Tweaked Skin Grafts Save Boy's Life

Experimental genetically-corrected skin grafts used on 80 percent of a boy's body saved his life, doctors say.

The 7-year-old boy in Germany had a rare genetic condition that affects development of a membrane in the top layer of skin (epidermis). People with the incurable condition, called epidermolysis bullosa, are at high risk for infections and skin cancer and many die before age 30, NBC News reported.

An infection had destroyed most of the boy's skin and he was dying in agony. He had received skin grafts from his father but the grafts did not last.

Skin grafts from other people usually fail in patients with epidermolysis bullosa because of the genetic defect that affects how the skin grows.

The doctors at Children's Hospital at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany decided to get help from experts across Europe in order to perform experimental skin grafting. The medical team removed some non-damaged skin from the boy and used a virus to carry a corrected version of the genetic defect into his skin cells, NBC News reported.

Grafts of the corrected skin were grown and used to replace the boy's missing skin in three separate operations. The grafts took hold and grew, according to the case report in the journal Nature.

The effort was led by Dr. Michele De Luca of the University of Modena in Italy.

The boy "was discharged from the hospital in February 2016," De Luca told reporters in a telephone briefing, NBC News reported.

"His epidermis is currently stable and robust, and does not blister, itch, or require ointment or medications," the graft team wrote. "The child returned to regular elementary school in March 2016."

"The amount of coverage that (the team) was able to achieve on this patient and the impact that this has had on the patient's life is really incredible," Stanford University's Dr. Peter Marinkovich, who also uses skin grafts to treat similar patients, told NBC News.

"It shows the promise of what we are doing," he added.


Maine Voters Support Medicaid Expansion

Maine residents rebuked their governor and President Donald Trump by voting Tuesday to expand Medicaid in their state.

Maine now joins 31 other states that have expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama's health care law, the Associated Press reported.

This was the first time since the Affordable Care Act took effect that voters anywhere in the country had a chance to decide on expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income people.

Nationwide, expansion of Medicaid has provided coverage for about 11 million people, the AP reported.

In Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump ally, vetoed five different attempts by the state legislature to expand Medicaid.

"This is an exciting night in Maine, but also an exciting night for the country," said David Farmer, spokesman for pro-expansion Mainers For Health Care, the AP reported. "Voters have made it clear they want more health care, not less."


Prescription Drug Take Back Day Sets New Record

A record amount of potentially dangerous expired and unused prescription drugs were brought for disposal to more than 5,300 collection sites across the United States on the latest National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, the Drug Enforcement Administration says.

The 912,305 pounds (456 tons) collected on Oct. 28 was nearly six tons more than was collected at the spring event.

Since the fall of 2010, the event has collected 9,015,668 pounds, or 4,508 tons, of unwanted and unused prescription drugs, according to the DEA.

The next Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 28, 2018.

Having unused and unwanted prescription drugs in home medicine cabinets increases the risk of misuse and abuse. Most abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends. The U.S. has high rates of prescription drug abuse and overdoses, the DEA said.

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