Participate to put Parkinson's at the heart of European research

Help us shape a major new European research programme by completing a short 30-minute online survey.

Joint Programmes have been set up by The European Union to tackle some of the 'big challenges' that face us today, such as healthcare and environmental topics like climate change and energy security.

Neurodegenerative diseases has been selected as the first joint programme initiative, and an EU Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease (JPND) has been created to improve the understanding of neurodegenerative disorders.

Neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's have been identified as 2 of the biggest health challenges for Europe today.

It's hoped that this programme will help generate new medical approaches for prevention, diagnosis and treatment for neurodegenerative conditions, with the ultimate goal being to find a cure.

This is in addition to ensuring the provision of health, social care and support so that individuals can receive optimum care at all stages of their illness.

They now need researchers, healthcare professionals and people living with these conditions to help identify common research goals like alleviating symptoms and lessening the impact for patients, families and health care systems.

We hope this new programme will boost research into Parkinson's across Europe by encouraging more collaborative projects and crucially attracting more funding.

As the biggest Parkinson's research charity in Europe, we've been involved in shaping this programme from its earliest stages.

Our diverse and innovative UK research projects aim to tackle every aspect of Parkinson's - but we cannot do it alone.

Please take the time to complete the survey and make sure the views of people affected by Parkinson's are at the heart of European research.

New insights into key protein could help us crack the Parkinson's code

Now and again a piece of research emerges that turns an accepted idea on its head - and a new study published this week in top scientific journal Nature has done just that.

It shows that the protein alpha-synuclein - a key player in Parkinson's - may behave very differently than researchers previously thought.

Alpha-synuclein is the main component of protein that forms sticky clumps called Lewy bodies in the nerve cells that die when people develop Parkinson's.

People who have changes in the alpha-synuclein gene have an increased risk of Parkinson's.

Until now, researchers had believed this protein existed by itself as single units. However this new research suggests that in healthy cells, the protein actually forms very stable 4-unit blocks, which crucially seem to be less likely to form Lewy bodies.

This research may hold the key to understanding what causes Parkinson's, and what goes wrong inside the cells that die in Parkinson's.

It may also hopefully lead to the development of new treatments that can stop Lewy bodies forming and slow or stop the development of Parkinson's entirely.

We're currently funding almost £1million of research projects investigating alpha-synuclein, and these new findings could be the catalyst for more breakthroughs that bring us closer to a cure.

Find out more about our exciting current research projects and let us know what you think about this new discovery in the comments section below.

Welfare reform revisited

A BBC article this week stated that the Lib Dems plan to call for changes to the current 'stressful' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) testing during their party conference in Birmingham next month.

This follows recent protests by many who are unhappy with the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) computerised testing system introduced to ascertain disability claims.

There are serious concerns that assessments are inaccurate and unfair, which echoes our support of the recent Hardest Hit campaign and the 'Making it work for fluctuating conditions' report we collaborated on in May to make benefits assessments fairer.

Despite incorporation of recommendations from Professor Harrington for a fairer system, following 2 previous reviews of the process, questions remain about whether a tick-box computer-led assessment is the best way to analyse suitability to work.

Over the next 3 years, 1.5 million people will undergo this more stringent procedure.

With any assessments for disability allowance, the complex and fluctuating nature of a condition such as Parkinson's is not being taken into account.

A staggering 40% of claimants denied support appeal, a process which is costly for the state.

Another worry is that the Government proposes to limit contributory ESA to just 1 year for those deemed about to undertake 'work-related activity. This means people with Parkinson's who've worked all their lives and paid national insurance could have support withdrawn because they can't find work after 12 months.

The Government must ensure its proposals do not punish those in society who need the most support.

We'll be contributing to a second Independent Review of the WCA currently being carried out by Professor Harrington. Read more about how to influence our response.

Share your views or experience of ESA below or email