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BONE BAC­TE­RIA: Treat­ment with friendly bac­te­ria widely used in pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ments can strengthen bones, a study has found. Healthy mice fed Lac­to­bacil­lus rham­no­sus GG (LGG) bugs ex­pe­ri­enced an im­mune re­sponse that stim­u­lated an in­crease in bone den­sity. The ef­fect was linked to the gen­er­a­tion of bu­tyrate, or bu­tyric acid — a type of fatty acid pro­duced by gut bac­te­ria. This, in turn, ac­ti­vated reg­u­la­tory T-cells, part of the im­mune sys­tem. Sci­en­tists hope the dis­cov­ery will lead to new ways of treat­ing the brit­tle bone dis­ease os­teo­poro­sis. The con­di­tion, a ma­jor haz­ard for women af­ter the menopause, can lead to dis­abling bone frac­tures and an in­creased risk of death.

DE­MEN­TIA PRE­DIC­TOR: A fiveminute scan of blood ves­sels in the neck dur­ing mid-life could be­come part of fu­ture de­men­tia screen­ing, re­searchers have sug­gested. In 2002 sci­en­tists took ul­tra­sound scans of the blood ves­sels in the necks of more than 3,000 mid­dle-aged vol­un­teers and mon­i­tored them over the fol­low­ing 15 years. They found those with the most in­tense pulses de­vel­oped greater cog­ni­tive de­cline over the next decade than the other study par­tic­i­pants. The re­search was led by Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don (UCL).

EM­PA­THY TEST: The­o­ries that sug­gest men have a nat­u­ral ten­dency to­wards autism have been sup­ported by a ma­jor study ex­plor­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal sex dif­fer­ences. Test­ing around half a mil­lion peo­ple, re­searchers found that women on av­er­age had higher em­pa­thy scores than men, while men scored higher for sys­temis­ing and traits as­so­ci­ated with autism, such as not be­ing good at recog­nis­ing and re­spond­ing to other peo­ple’s thoughts and feel­ings. The find­ings are re­ported in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences. The re­searchers pointed out that lack of em­pa­thy did not mean autis­tic peo­ple were psy­chopaths. While strug­gling with cog­ni­tive em­pa­thy — the abil­ity to recog­nise thoughts and feel­ings — they still pos­sessed af­fec­tive em­pa­thy, which in­volves car­ing about what hap­pens to other peo­ple.

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