If you’re app-y and you know it

When the iPhone first launched in 2007, it created a global sensation and triggered an explosion in the development of software applications that could work on smartphones - commonly known as 'apps'.

Now, 3 years on, it seems there's an app for just about everything – from growing your own fruit and veg, to reading the daily newspaper.

American blogger Karl Robb recently wrote about apps that can help people with Parkinson's, listing several that could assist with speech and sleep.

A browse of iTunes shows hundreds of apps available to provide health and fitness advice. There are also medication trackers, which remind you when to take medication and highlight any missed doses. It seems there really is an app for everything.

And it doesn't stop there. If you're interested in clinical trials, you can try the Parkinson's Drug Trials app. It claims to have the most up-to-date, comprehensive database of clinical trials. Searchable by location, it provides information on the purpose of the trial, eligibility and contact details, all available from your smartphone.

For professionals working with people with Parkinson's there are Parkinson's i-pocketcards providing essential information from diagnosis to treatments, as well as a huge range of apps for nurses, GPs and physiotherapists.

What apps would make your life easier? Have you used any apps to help you manage your condition or to help you treat a person with Parkinson's? Let us know.

And if you'd like to find out about research studies in the UK looking for people with Parkinson's to take part, visit our research pages or email research@parkinsons.org.uk

Encouraging the scientists of tomorrow

The newspapers seem to be full of news about the Government's potential cuts to services and funding.

And for medical research charities like Parkinson's UK, these can seem to be uncertain times to be investing in medical research.

This week we were at the House of Commons, together with other medical research charities, at the Medical Research All Party Parliamentary Group summer reception.

This was an opportunity to meet MPs and keep the work that charities like ours do in funding medical research high on the political agenda.

We were pleased to hear David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, acknowledge the important role that medical charities play in the UK.

We also heard some interesting facts:
  • In 2009/10 alone, medical research charities contributed over £1billion worth of funding to medical and health research in the UK.

  • The UK is second only to The Netherlands in Europe, in the proportion of people giving to research.
To illustrate just how the UK is leading the way in research which could move us ever closer to a cure for Parkinson's, Dr Richard Wade-Martins spoke to the media this week about cutting edge technology - creating stem cells from a person's own skin cells.

Most of Dr Wade-Martins' team at Oxford University are under the age of 40. To encourage the young scientists of tomorrow, the Government must keep its promise to invest in medical research today.

What do you think? Add your comments below.

Google co-founder leading study to find new Parkinson’s genes

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is leading a new web-based study which he hopes will uncover vital changes in people's genes that affect their risk of getting Parkinson's.

In 2008, Brin discovered that he has a gene mutation known as LRRK2 which was discovered by Parkinson's UK-funded research in 2004. The tiny difference in his genetic code means that he is at increased risk of developing Parkinson's in later life.

Now he's joined forces with his wife Anne Wojcicki – who runs 'personalised genomics' company 23andMe - to gather DNA samples from 10,000 people with Parkinson's.

Participants fill in an internet survey about their symptoms and lifestyle and provide a sample of saliva containing their DNA.

This approach flips traditional research methods on their head. Usually researchers set out to answer a very specific set of questions - whereas Brin has little idea of exactly what he's looking for.

But by collecting huge amounts of information and using computers to search for patterns, he hopes to find new genes or lifestyle factors that influence the development of Parkinson's.

Is this a genuinely innovative approach to Parkinson's research? Or more gimmick than potential breakthrough? Tell us what you make of it all by leaving a comment below or emailing research@parkinsons.org.uk

All eyes on Health Minister at International Carers Conference

Health Minister Andrew Lansley is due to make his first major speech on social care today at the 5th International Carers Conference in Leeds.

While it's good news that the carers' debate has gone global, all eyes will be on his plans and what it means for carers closer to home.

We are expecting an announcement very soon that the work of the long term care commission will begin on social care funding reform.

Everyone agrees the system is creaking - yet cuts seem inevitable as councils try and balance their books.

On the day the Government challenges the public for ideas on how the state can make savings, we hope the Secretary of State remembers the amount that carers save the UK because of the support they offer - an estimated £87billion and rising.

If nothing else, this demonstrates that supporting carers makes financial sense.

You can watch Mr Lansley's speech live online today via Carers World Radio.

Tell us what you think of the speech. If you're a carer, we'd like to hear about your concerns over the new Government's plans for social care.

What does welfare system reform mean for Parkinson's?

This week, the Government made major proposals to reform the current welfare system.

The announcement, made by Employment Minister Chris Grayling, also established an independent review of the benefits assessments system, due to be completed by the end of 2010.

With reports in the media suggesting that this signals the start of a wider crackdown to reduce incapacity claimants, we're concerned about what this all means for people living with Parkinson's and other long-term conditions.

Although nothing will be decided until after the independent review reports back, it would seem that the Government is trying to 'float' the idea that cuts to the welfare budget and tougher assessment criteria could soon be in place.

What suggestions would you make to the Government's independent review, to make sure that people with Parkinson's are protected from future changes to the welfare system?

Have you recently been assessed for disability-related benefits or had any changes made to the level of support you receive?

If you want to find out more about the benefits available for people with Parkinson's and their carers we have a range of free publications.

Share your thoughts here or email campaigns@parkinsons.org.uk