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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Atos tries to escape its past though superficial rebranding

There is a new company providing assessments of people claiming government disability benefits in the UK. Well, no, there isn’t.

You see, the new name, Independent Assessment Services, is just a rebranding exercise.

True, the name is new but it is the same bad old company.  It is still Atos Healthcare but now in disguise. No doubt it hopes to escape its reputation. as Atos has been the subject of numerous allegations.

atosIts assessors have been accused of numerous, serious and harmful failings in the way they have carried out assessments. The most recent example is that one of its assessors left a disabled woman to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours. Now, Atos launched an investigation.

This was after a Disability News Service (DNS) investigation that found many cases where claimants described how assessors from both Atos and the other assessment company Capita, filed dishonest reports of face-to-face assessments.

According to DNS, Gail Ward, from disability activist Black Triangle Campaign, responded to the rebranding by accusing Atos of “trying to create a “smokescreen” to cover up its “incompetence” in carrying out assessments.

She said: “Atos can rebrand all they wish. We will still call them Atos at every opportunity.”

She stated that Atos’s actions had left many disabled people trapped in their own homes, after losing their entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with many having to return their Motability vehicles.

Many grassroots campaigners were receiving requests for help in dealing with “fabrication of facts” in Atos PIP assessment reports. This had caused many sick and disabled people “a great deal of distress”.

Her Black Triangle colleague John McArdle added: “Atos has not changed its spots and is still working as the government’s henchman.

“We see the same litany of wrongdoing reported by DNS. Fraudulent reports, and catastrophic harm being caused to disabled people.”

He said the attempt to rebrand itself as a “respectable organisation” would fail6. He added: “Atos is infamous for carrying out systematic abuse of the fundamental human rights of disabled people.

“It is a toxic brand. It is a byword for corporate wrongdoing worldwide.”

Atos defends new name

An Atos spokesman said last week: “We believe the new name better reflects the role the company undertakes on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and the assessment work the company carries out.

“The change also follows the first independent review by Paul Gray which recommended a number of changes to claimant communications.

“It was planned and implemented in consultation with a number of disability representative organisations. They are supportive and welcome the change.”

However, DNS denied that. It said: “The two disability organisations Atos said supported the name change told DNS that they did no such thing.”

Interesting!

The spokesman added that policies – and assessment procedures – remain unchanged,

Now, that is a shame, because it seems that all the problems stem from those policies and procedures.

Changing the name is not enough. It is superficial. The company needs to change how it does its work, its culture.

People who are responsible for dishonest assessments, whether individual assessors or in management, have no business being there. Heads should roll.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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New welfare boss is either loyal party stooge or genuinely uncaring

David Gauke is the new man in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK. He has been appointed by lame duck prime minister Theresa May.

Gauke

David Gauke MP. (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

So, as the PM works on a deal with the Democratic Unionists, can we expect more compassion from the DWP? Regretfully, the answer is ‘no’.

Look at the way Gauke has voted on welfare and benefits in the House of Commons to see the truth.

Gauke’s voting record

TheyWorkForYou.com says this is how David Gauke voted:

  • Generally, he voted to reduce housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms. Labour describes this as the “bedroom tax”. 11 votes for, 0 votes against, 6 absences, between 2012 and 2014.
  • He consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices. 0 votes for, 5 votes against, in 2013.
  • Almost always, he voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. 0 votes for, 13 votes against, 2 absences, between 2011 and 2016.
  • He consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support. 4 votes for, 0 votes against, in 2012.
  • Almost always, he voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits. 45 votes for, 1 vote against, 8 absences, between 2012 and 2016.
  • He consistently voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed. 0 votes for, 9 votes against, between 2011 and 2014.

Still no care at top?

That means David Gauke is loyal and votes as he is told by his party. Either that, or he is as genuinely uncaring as his Conservative predecessors.

Whichever is true, his appointment seems likely to prove disappointing for all who receive welfare benfits. And that includes everyone who is elderly, has a disability, has a low income, or is without a job.

Source of voting record: TheyWorkForYou.com. For an explanation of the vote descriptions please see the FAQ entries on vote descriptions and how the voting record is decided.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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May’s ‘extreme’ bedfellows may be good for welfare benefits

government

Prime Minister Theresa May.

It is no surprise that Theresa May wants to hold on to the keys of 10 Downing Street. After all, it is the official home of the British prime minister. But she needs help, her Conservative party fell several seats short of an overall majority in last week’s general election.

As I write this, talks are continuing between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP is the only other party that is willing to support a May government. And that could be interesting as far as disability and other benefits are concerned.

So, what is the DUP and what does it stand for?

Right-wing, ‘extremist’

DUP leader Arlene Foster.

It is Northern Ireland’s right-wing, unionist, protestant party. It’s the largest political party in the province and is the fifth largest in the UK’s House of Commons. It is an organisation that was born out of controversy, being founded in 1971 during the worst of the troubles. The founder and first leader was the late firebrand Rev Ian Paisley. Some label it ‘extremist’.

But what does that mean for all of us, wherever we may be?

The DUP is Eurosceptic and an advocate of a hard Brexit. It is a fierce defender of protestant unionism (with Great Britain) against Roman Catholic Irish nationalism (merging with Ireland). It opposes both gay marriage and legalised abortion.

Voted against government’s benefit cuts

Interestingly, however, while the party’s MPs might not always be in the House of Commons chamber, when they were there during the last parliament, they consistently vote against the Conservative’s cuts in welfare benefits.

Any deal between the two parties looks set to be on a case-by-case basis, not a formal coalition. As such, it could mean that the Conservative minority government might be outvoted if it tries to impose any further cuts in this sensitive area.

Now, that would be a step forward for those of us who rely on those benefits because we have a disability, or are elderly.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Cambridge scientist ‘on verge of curing multiple sclerosis’

A researcher from Cambridge University, UK, has made a discovery which could lead to a cure for multiple sclerosis. What’s more, she says it can tackle other diseases too.

LIF

Dr Su Metcalfe of LIFNano (Photo David Johnson).

Dr Su Metcalfe was working at the university’s department of surgery when she made her big breakthrough. “I was looking to see what controls the immune response and stops it auto-attacking us,” she told the Cambridge News.

It all revolves around a stem cell particle called a LIF.

She explained: “I discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF, which regulates inside the immune cell itself. A LIF is able to control the cell to ensure it doesn’t attack your own body but then releases the attack when needed.

“That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attack, also plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy. In fact, it plays a major role in tissue repair generally. It turns on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body.”

It is a natural regenerative medicine, and plays a big part in repairing a damaged brain.

Stopping and reversing disease

“So, I thought this is fantastic. We can treat autoimmune disease, and we’ve got something to treat MS, which attacks both the brain and the spinal cord. It’s a double whammy that can stop and reverse the autoimmunity (disease), and also repair the damage caused in the brain.”

There was a problem, though. The LIF only survives outside the cell for 20 minutes before it is broken down. This meant there was not enough time to deploy it in a therapy.

The answer turns out to be nano-particles.

The particles were developed at Yale University, USA. Yale is listed as co-inventor with Su, but LIFNano has the worldwide licence to deploy them.

Su says: “Nano-medicine is a new era, and big pharma has already entered this space to deliver drugs while trying to avoid the side effects. The quantum leap is to actually go into biologics and tap into the natural pathways of the body.

“We’re not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance. Auto-immunity (diseases) happen when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you’ve done that, it becomes self-sustaining and you don’t have to keep giving therapy, because the body has its balance back.”

LIF clinical trials

LIFNano has already attracted two major funding awards, from drug firm Merck and government agency Innovate UK. Su has recruited chairman Florian Kemmerich and ceo Oliver Jarry, both with experience in the pharma sector. The company hopes to attract more investment, with the aim of starting clinical trials in 2020.

“The 2020 date is ambitious, but with the funding we’ve got and the funding we’re hoping to raise, it should be possible,” says Su.

What’s in store for LIFNano after MS?

“MS is our key driver at the moment, but it’s going to be leading through to other major auto-immune disease areas,” Su answers

“Psoriasis is high up on our list, and diabetes is another. Downstream there are all the dementias, because a LIF is a major health factor for the brain. So, if we can get it into the brain we can start protecting against dementia.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Time to care about elderly, disability, welfare, health, security, and more

Tomorrow, June 8, voters in the UK go to the polls elect the country’s new government. They do so by those in each of the 650 constituencies choosing one member of parliament (MP). The government is the political party that gets the majority of MPs – and people with disabilities are watching with interest.

The magic number to have an overall majority is for one party to accumulate 326 MPs. But, if no one gets that many, it will be 2010 repeated – and it is likely they will form a coalition.

Indeed, if no party achieves an overall majority, it is quite possible they could form a coalition government without party with the most MPs. That would be a first for the UK.

Gap narrowing, opinion polls say

Opinion polls have varied widely over the campaign but one thing is certain. And that is support for the ruling Conservative party is dropping continuously while the popularity of Labour, the second largest party, is growing steadily. The difference between the two was more than 20% but latest polls put the gap at between 4% and 1%.

As far as the disabled and the elderly are concerned, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have disability-friendly policies. On the other hand, the Conservatives have nothing to offer except more cuts, pain and misery.

In 1982, I joined the Conservative party and never dreamed that I would ever vote Labour. However, my vote in this election is a vote for welfare and social care. It is a vote for the health service. A vote for people with disabilities. A vote for the elderly.

It is a vote for Labour, the number one caring party. I urge all of you who have a vote to care – and to vote Labour.

Labour: Care, cooperation and no cuts

On the issue of Europe, the UK needs a soft Brexit, , and needs to approach the negotiations with an attitude of co-operation, as promised by Labour, not Conservative confrontation. After all, there is an old saying that you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.

And we cannot forget crime and terrorism. Everyone is claiming they are the best to handle this, but only one party is saying that at the same time as they are cutting police budgets and the number of officers. And that’s the failed Conservatives who seem able to claim they provide a strong government when, in fact, their only strength is in making cuts that hurt ordinary people.

Tomorrow, UK electors, please vote for the best possible future for Britain and do your bit to stop five more years of the uncaring, self-serving Conservatives. Enough is enough!

labour

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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It’s World MS Day, does it really matter?

Today is World MS Day. And this should be an important day for raising awareness of multiple sclerosis in countries around the globe. But that is not what is happening.

world ms dayEven though the supposedly special day is coordinated by the MS International Federation (MSIF) and has its own website, the national charities prefer to concentrate on their own activities.

Just look at the World MS Day website list of these activities:

MS Carnation Campaign, Canada

From 11-13 May, the MS Society of Canada mobilised people across the nation to support the MS Carnation Campaign for Mother’s Day.

Theatre for MS, Egypt

Throughout April, the MS Care Society Egypt raised awareness of the stigma surrounding MS and other conditions by organising theatrical performances featuring people with MS.

Book Launch: “Endless story of MS”, Slovakia

From 11-12 May, the MS Society of Slovakia marked the launch of “Endless story with MS”. It is a book full of personal stories of people with MS.

Wellness Seminar, India

On 14 May, the Mumbai Chapter of the MS Society of India (MSSI) organised an educational seminar on methods for managing MS, led by renowned medical & health practitioners in Mumbai.

Solidarity Fundraising Walk, Portugal

On 30 April, people took to the streets of Peso da Régua, Portugal, for a solidarity fundraising walk in honour of World MS Day.

As strange as it may seem, the fact is that not one of those activities is being held on World MS Day itself. The website does not list any event being held today.

Additionally, major national organizations are embracing their own awareness events.

Just take a look at these examples:

  • USA – National MS Awareness Month held in March.
  • Canada -National MS Month held in May.
  • UK – MS Awareness Week held in March.
  • New Zealand – Awareness Week held in August.

With support of that magnitude, or lack of it, I really think the MSIF should drop the idea of World MS Day. Clearly, it does not have necessary international support.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Social care plans ‘ignore working-age disabled people’

Campaigners are denouncing the Conservatives for ignoring the social care needs of working-age disabled people. The issue does not get a mention in the party’s manifesto for next week’s UK general election.

Conservative leader and prime minister Theresa May got in hot water last week for making a U-turn, which she called a ‘clarification’. It was over the manifesto policy on charging older people for social care.

So, the party’s social care polices now face attack on two fronts. This is because neither the original manifesto, nor that U-turn made any mention of working-age disabled people.

Disability consultant Jane Young told the Disability News Service (DNS) that the manifesto demonstrates ‘ignorance of adult social care services’.

She said: “Anyone reading it would assume that only older people use social care services, when in reality one-third of social care service-users are disabled people of working age.

“We’re left completely in the dark as to how the proposals will affect disabled people, including those who’ve had their support reduced following the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

No acknowledgement of social care role

“While disabled people’s employment is mentioned elsewhere in the manifesto, there’s no acknowledgement of the role of social care in enabling many disabled people to work.

“All we have are questions: Will there be different arrangements for working-age service-users?

“How will the proposals affect disabled service-users with mortgages, or when they sell their home and buy another?

“Will adult social care be better funded, so it can enable independent living rather than mere existence?

“After decades of well-meaning reports, culminating in the Dilnot report and the Care Act 2014, we’re once again thrown into uncertainty.

“We expect more than a manifesto that conveniently ignores us,” she said.

social care

Sue Bott of the DRUK.

Deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, Sue Bott, said there was “No information at all about younger people in” the manifesto.

She believes most of the public are unaware that younger disabled people had to pay for their social care.

Further, she said, the social care system is ‘grossly underfunded’, and that younger disabled people pay more in charges than older people with care needs. This is because older people are allowed to keep more of their money through a generous minimum income guarantee.

Bott added: “If it was realised how much  people had to pay in charges, they would be pretty outraged. It wouldn’t fit in with the ‘scroungers and strivers’ narrative.

Completely unacceptable

“The current situation [with charging]is completely unacceptable. It seems almost out of control.

“The [Conservative] narrative is ‘we are supporting the people most in need’, but they are not, because what they are doing is giving with one hand and taking away with the other in the form of social care charges.”

Asked why the manifesto makes no mention of the social care needs of working-age disabled people, a Conservative party spokeswoman told DNS: “Our manifesto has committed to making sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.

“We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay.  And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

That reply, of course, failed to answer the question, but the we cannot really expect honesty, can we?

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Mixed messages about beta-interferon safety to treat MS

Research that is meaningful is essential. It is what, after all, what we need to find a cure for multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases.

However, a new study from the University of British Columbia, Canada, puzzles me. The study “Evaluating the safety of beta-interferons in MS” looked at potential adverse events when treating relapsing remitting MS (RRMS).

When the findings were published in Neurology, they came with a strangely conflicting narrative.

Let me explain.

Increased risk

The study found an increased risk of events such as stroke, migraine and depression, as well as abnormalities in the blood, when beta-interferon is taken for MS. The team discovered this by analysing the health records of more than 2,000 British Columbians with MS between 1995 and 2008.

beta-interferon

Professor Helen Tremlett.

So, that’s not so good. But Professor Helen Tremlett, senior author of the study, said that beta-interferons have a favourable safety profile, especially compared to the newer therapies for MS. And she added: “That is still the case; our study does not change that.

“However, very few studies had comprehensively and quantitatively assessed their safety in real world clinical practice. Our findings complement and extend on previous observations.”

Tremlett is a Professor in the department of medicine at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre in Brain Health. She also said: “Once a drug is released on the market, there are very few ways to systematically monitor adverse events. 

“Clinical trials cannot identify all adverse effects of a drug treatment partly due to small sample sizes and relatively short follow-up periods.”

Beta-interferon research undermined?

So, the study shows that people taking beta-interferon for MS are at great risk of having a stroke, migraine and depression, as well as abnormalities in the blood. But they stress that patients and physicians should not change their treatment plans. They say that the risk to individual patients will vary greatly depending on individual factors.

To me that attitude, of ‘yes, the risks are greater but never mind’, devalues the results. In fact, to my mind, it undermines the whole study. The question I must ask is: why waste money on research if you are going to go against the results?

On the plus side, besides the negative effects, Tremlett and her colleagues made a positive discovery. They found a reduced risk of bronchitis and upper respiratory infections with taking beta-interferon for more than two years. These infections can be common and problematic for people living with multiple sclerosis.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Two new studies increase our understanding of MS

New studies may be good news for those of us living with multiple sclerosis as they increase understanding of it.

One pinpoints a mutation responsible for neurological dysfunction. Meanwhile, the second says high levels of a protein may contribute to MS progression.

study

Professor Ian Duncan.

Ian Duncan is professor of neurology in the department of medical sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has pinpointed the cause of a serious neurological disease. The disease is very similar to multiple sclerosis, and found in a colony of rats. The study, “A mutation in the Tubb4a gene leads to microtubule accumulation with hypomyelination and demyelination (pages 690–702)”, is published in this month’s Annals of Neurology.

The human disease, called H-ABC, can affect parts of the brain. Both conditions arise from mutations in the same gene. And both abnormalities affect myelin, as seen in MS.

Professor Duncan examined the nervous system tissue from both conditions and revealed an overgrowth of tiny tubes known as mircotubulas in oligodendrocytes,. These are the cells that make myelin and deposit it on nerve fibres.

Myelin defects are also at the root of the leukodystrophies — genetic disorders that include H-ABC.

Knowing how oligodendrocytes form and maintain myelin, and how those essential processes go awry, “could open a new window of understanding on the more widespread myelin diseases,” Duncan added.

Protein may encourage MS progression

The second study found that high levels of a protein called Rab32 may contribute to the progression of MS. And this could lead to neuronal loss.

The study, “Rab32 connects ER stress to mitochondrial defects in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a part in producing new proteins, and stores calcium. ER stress is a hallmark of MS and several other neurodegenerative diseases.

Now, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, suggest that the ER may play a role in triggering mitochondria impairment, leading to MS.

Professor Thomas Simmen.

Thomas Simmen, associate professor in the department of cell biology, is senior author. He said: “Scientists have been pointing to the mitochondria as a possible link to MS. But they have not been able to decipher how it malfunctions. Ours is the first study that combines clinical and lab experiments to explain how mitochondria become defective in MS patients.”

Using brain tissue samples from MS patients and healthy individuals, the team quantified levels of Rab32 and monitored neuronal death.

Results indicate higher Rab32 levels have links to an increase in ER stress proteins and inflammation in the MS brain. However, virtually no Rab32 was present in brain tissue from healthy individuals.

ER stress has strong links to an increase of Rab32 and MS progression that can lead to mitochondrial impairment and neuronal death. What’s more, these findings may prove useful in designing novel strategies to prevent neuronal loss in MS.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Election 2017: Labour to reform welfare benefits and end freeze

benefits

Close share panel

All three main UK political parties have put stated their plans for state welfare benefits, should they win the general election.

Of course, realistically only the existing government Conservatives or the major opposition Labour party, can win. The Liberal Democrats have no chance. I have ignored the UK Independence Party (UKIP) as polls show its support has collapsed.

Labour’s shadow chancellor (finance minister) John McDonnell says his first budget will include a package of reforms, in effect ending the present government’s freeze on benefits. The freeze on working-age benefits started in 2016, and welfare payments are capped at their current rate until 2019.

Speaking on the BBC TV’s Andrew Marr show, Mr McDonnell spoke of Labour’s proposals. He said the party ‘would ensure that in effect we would be addressing ….. how we reverse the benefit freeze itself’.

Benefits reform package

He said: “We’re putting £30bn in over the lifetime of a parliament into welfare. We’re reforming the whole process ….. and the implication will be ….. the impact of these proposals will make the freeze irrelevant.

“I want to do it as part of an overall reform package and not just pick off one by one.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the freeze is ‘unfair’ and ‘would be ended’.

Manifesto pledges

The party’s manifesto includes pledges costing £48.6 bn, to be funded from extra tax revenue.

Labour’s manifesto also includes plans to scrap the bedroom tax and, restore housing benefit for those under 21. It includes, too, an increase in Personal Independence Payment for peole living with disabilities.

According to the Conservative manifesto, Theresa May’s party has “no plans for further radical welfare reform”. It will continue to roll-out of Universal Credit – the much-maligned single monthly payment to replace many other benefits.

The Liberal Democrats also say they’d end the benefits freeze and reverse disastrous welfare cuts made by the current government.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Features Writer for Medical News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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