A cancer-busting super weapon was developed, basic income research got a boost, and the four-day week confounded critics, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
A cancer-busting guided missile built from microscopic components ‘clicked’ together like Lego. That’s how researchers at University College London (UCL) describe a possible new cancer therapy devised by joining a trio of proteins together to create a molecular super weapon.
“We have an antibody fragment that binds to cancer cells – that’s the guidance system,” explained UCL’s Dr Peter Szijj. “Another one calls in an artillery strike – the T cells which kill the cancer – and we have an enzyme which knocks out its defences.”
Designing therapies by joining molecules together is an established field, but one that, until recently, relied on complex genetic engineering. However, the UCL team included Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences chemist Prof Carolyn Bertozzi, one of three scientists who won a 2022 Nobel prize for pioneering a chemical method dubbed ‘click chemistry’.
Szijj said that the use of an enzyme, sialidase, to strip away cancer cells’ defence mechanisms proved particularly effective at killing breast cancer cells, but stressed the work had yet to move beyond the petri dish. “There is much untapped potential,” his paper concluded.
Image: Jose carlos Cerdeno/iStock
A legacy of poverty, genocide and dictatorship left Zimbabwe struggling with an epidemic of depression. Enter the Friendship Bench: a landmark project employing grandmothers to deliver therapy on park benches.
The concept has proven so successful that it’s being exported around the world. Up next? London
Positive News went to Zimbabwe to find out more. Read the full story here.
Image: Cynthia Matonhodze and Costa Juta
Climate litigation is becoming an integral part of securing climate action and justice globally. That’s according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, which found that climate court cases have more than doubled in five years.
The report highlighted a series of landmark rulings, including a Dutch court ordering oil giant Shell to slash its emissions. It was the first time a court found a private company to have a duty under the Paris agreement.
The UN said that as climate litigation increases, the body of legal precedent grows, forming an increasingly well-defined field of law.
Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, said: “People are increasingly turning to courts to combat the climate crisis… making litigation a key mechanism for securing climate action and promoting climate justice.”
Image: Markus Spiske
New research bolsters the case for a universal basic income (UBI), suggesting it could save the UK’s National Health Service tens of billions of pounds.
A UBI guarantees a regular, government-backed income for all. Advocates say it could boost wellbeing and the economy, while reducing inequality. Critics claim it would disincentivise work.
Modelling funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) assessed the potential health impacts of UBI. It suggested that a £75 per week UBI could prevent up to one million cases of depression annually, plus up to one million more “physical health symptoms”, saving the health service billions.
The team behind the work – led by Prof Matthew Johnson at Northumbria University – previously modelled three UBI schemes costing the government between £274bn-£675bn a year. Their scenarios included tax and benefit reforms, resulting in a near-zero cost to the public purse.
Anthony Painter, an economic security expert, said the evidence of UBI’s positive impacts was “relentless”. “It’s good to see the evidence base deepen to further open the debate on the importance of UBI and economic security for health and wellbeing.”
Image: Nathan Dumlao
Enhanced background checks for young adults attempting to buy guns in the US has prevented hundreds of people who shouldn’t own firearms from obtaining one, data suggests.
The enhanced checks were rolled out nationwide in January. They require the FBI to conduct rigorous assessments of 18-20-year-olds looking to buy guns, including reviews of mental health records. Data suggest that most mass shootings are carried out by people in this age bracket.
According to figures obtained by The Trace, a newsroom that reports on US gun violence, the enhanced background checks resulted in 1,100 people being denied a firearm, 253 of whom wouldn’t have been flagged under the old system.
“That might seem like a small number of denials,” The Trace said in an editorial. “But that’s still hundreds of unlawful and potentially dangerous gun purchases that otherwise would have proceeded.”
A court judgement in Peru has raised hopes for same sex marriage in the Latin American country.
The ruling follows a case brought by a gay Peruvian citizen who sued the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC) for refusing to include her 2019 overseas marriage on public records.
Lima’s superior court of justice agreed her constitutional rights had been violated and ordered RENIEC to proceed with the registration, saying that a 29-year-old civil code defining marriage as between a man and a woman was inapplicable.
Homosexuality is legal in Peru, but same sex marriages or civil unions aren’t legally recognised. A change would bring Peru in line with South American neighbours Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile.
Image: Cecilie Johnsen
The environment is a top concern among UK voters, according to a long-running tracker survey, suggesting the main parties’ efforts to ditch green policies are misguided.
The Conservatives are rethinking environment pledges, while Labour has rowed back on a planned £28bn green jobs borrowing spree. Last week’s Uxbridge byelection – where London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone was a battleground issue – has added to the scrutiny.
However, a poll by YouGov suggests the environment is the fourth most important issue facing UK voters, after the economy, health and immigration.
Charles Watson, chair of the charity River Action, said it was “incomprehensible” that leaders were considering scrapping green initiatives. “We witness citizen outrage on a daily basis in relation to the appalling ecological state of our rivers,” he said.
The Wildlife and Countryside Link, a nature coalition, agreed. “Time and again, voters rate the environment high among their top concerns,” CEO Richard Benwell told Positive News. “Abandoning nature and climate change pledges now would be the worst kind of short-term politics.”
Firms that embraced a four-day week in a North American trial were better able to retain staff and saw no noticeable drop-off in productivity. What’s more, 40 per cent of staff reported feeling less stressed.
That’s according to a 12-month review of the US and Canadian pilot, which saw working hours fall but pay remain the same. The findings chime with similar research in the UK, although critics question whether the benefits can be sustained in the long term.
Jon Leland, chief strategy officer at Kickstarter, one of the companies involved, said: “We’ve seen very few people choose to depart the company since the implementation of our four-day week. This has dramatically improved our ability to meet objectives.”
The report comes as Portugal becomes the latest European nation to pilot a four-day week.
Image: Jason Goodman
Horses might seem like an unlikely ally when tackling wildfires, but ecologists believe the animals could be key to preventing the kind of blazes that are currently ripping through Europe.
So much so that a rewilding project has just reintroduced the animals to the Iberian Highlands in Spain, where they will clear the scrub of combustible leaves.
But that’s not the only benefit they will bring. Find out more here.
Image: Serhii Moiseiev
How to live longer? It’s a question that’s occupied us through the ages, and this week a new US study had some answers.
It suggested that men who practiced eight healthy lifestyle habits at the age of 40 would on average live 24 years longer than men with none of the habits. For women, it was 21 years.
Here are the eight habits.
Image: SHVETS production
Main image: Bewakoof
Additional reporting by Gavin Haines, Jo Caird, Sally Howard and Nyasha Chingono.
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