A letter from the PM

Steve Ford It was a surprise to come back from holiday and find a letter from the Prime Minister waiting for me!

Gordon Brown was responding to more than 250 letters from people supporting our Fair Care for Parkinson's campaign.

Campaigning for change can take many forms, but letter writing from people who are actually affected by the issues can have a real impact, as the PM's response shows.

If you haven't written yet, it's not too late! If you're in England you can email Gordon Brown, or in Northern Ireland, email the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Our quick and easy email templates will help you, and you’ll have a chance to customise the text if you wish.

If you live in Scotland or Wales, sign up to our National Campaigns Network and we’ll let you know as soon as there’s an action for you to take.

Please help us keep up the pressure - it will be key for us in getting recognition of the need for action to improve neurological services.

Steve Ford is Chief Executive of the Parkinson's Disease Society

Tweeting about a neurological 'tsar'

Nicola Brian The BBC reported this week that Labour has appointed a 'Twitter tsar' to improve the party's use of 'social media' before the general election.

In itself, I think it's a good idea to get more in touch with new media. The Parkinson's Disease Society reaches new people through Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. And our latest campaign - Fair Care for Parkinson's, allows people to email Gordon Brown as well as write to him.

But even though Labour's new post isn't publicly funded - the appointment of another 'tsar' is frustrating given there still isn't an equivalent post to advise on neurological services.

While the exact number of Twitter users is not known, estimates indicate that there are around 1 million users of the service in the UK. In contrast there are 10 million people with neurological conditions living in the UK, 120,000 of those with Parkinson's.
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A tsar can provide leadership on key areas of policy, and tsars for other health conditions like cancer and stroke have lead to huge improvements in the way the conditions are treated.

It's important to stay ahead of the game with communications – but I wish the Government would also acknowledge the ways that 10 million people with neurological conditions could benefit from the same leadership that Twitter will.

Nicola Brian is Director of Communications at the Parkinson's Disease Society

Using appropriate animal models

Dr Kieran BreenThis week, I was excited to see new research, in Neurobiology of Disease, showing that gene therapy can improve the condition of mature monkeys with Parkinson's-like symptoms.

This study is groundbreaking because the researchers used older monkeys, the equivalent of 55 year old humans, instead of the 'teenage' animals that are usually used.

Younger animals tend to be used in science because they are more easily available. But, for age-related conditions like Parkinson's, where the vast majority of people are over 50, this simply doesn’t make sense.

Using inappropriate animal models means new treatments can look promising but do not work for real people with Parkinson's. This is not only an irresponsible use of animals, and a waste of time and money, but also means we may be missing out on drugs that could work to more effectively treat people with Parkinson's.

Coming up with models that reflect the real condition is crucial to finding a cure for Parkinson's. The Parkinson's Disease Society is funding projects exploring new animal models, while recent breakthroughs have created yeast models of nerve cells and even fruit flies with Parkinson's-associated dementia

Dr Kieran Breen is Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson's Disease Society

Running for people with Parkinson's

In the current economic climate, we have to think of new, innovative ways to raise money for people with Parkinson's. At the moment, many charities are struggling to fill places in major races, such as the Great North Run

But running events are still a popular way of fundraising for the Parkinson's Disease Society. Last year, around 1,300 runners took part in events across the UK and their combined efforts raised an incredible £580,000.

In recognition of this, and to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we decided to organise an exclusive Parkinson's Disease Society running event this year. The first ever PDS10K will be held at the National Water Sports Centre, Nottingham on Sunday 22 November 2009 and you can register to take part online right now.

Fundraising events like these are fantastic to be a part of because everyone is coming together for the same reason, to show their support for people with Parkinson's and to help us continue our work.

But events like these are not the only way you can help and every contribution is valued. If you're looking for inspiration on how you can get involved with the Parkinson's Disease Society and show your support, why not take a look at the support us page on our website?

Paul Jackson-Clark is Director of Fundraising at the Parkinson's Disease Society