In the news
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.