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Genetics

Visiting Parkinson’s Geneticist – Dr Nacho Mata

You might have seen me walking around WPC with a Peruvian beanie (warm) hat on. There was reason to my madness: I was trying to connect with people from South America but  there were very few of them. But then I heard about the legendary “Nacho Mata” – But I couldn’t find Nacho despite messaging him, so on went the hat and he spotted me easily leaving a session. 

Dr Mata had a huge interest in Peru, where I live, as his work is in genetic studies various countries in South America. He has found that Latinos have very little representation in the genetic studies done already so if cures or treatment was found it would be likely to benefit mainly European forms of Parkinson’s and not others. Nacho, originally from Spain,  he decided to study the South American variant of parkinson.

When we met at the WPC conference I asked if he could speak with the Peruvian Parkinson’s Association about Genetics (but basic level only). He willingly agreed and the association booked a hall and organised the event within just over a months notice. 

This talk was a great “Introduction to Parkinson’s Genetics” which should be repeated at WPC22.  It explained briefly causes and basics Parkinson’s and even used a Peruvian food analogy to keep them listening. Everyone should know to complement a Peruvian it is best to say “I love _____ (specific food). Smart! He had them hungry for more (pun intended). 

Only 20% of persons have a hereditary form of Parkinson’s and he encouraged PWP to enroll in genetic studies.  Association should also raise funds for research too, as that is how Nacho got his start in Parkinson’s research – the location Parkinson’s Association where he lived gave him a scholarship to do Parkinson’s research. He talks as if they’re his aunts and uncles and is so grateful to them. 

So thank-you to the World Parkinson’s Congress for making the connection possible. Interestingly enough through Nachos visit I have met several young neurologists who are passionate about helping patients. One even stopped me in the hall at a medical conference Nacho was teaching at and said “thanked you for coming and inspiring me to keep working in this area” as I’d shared briefly what it was like for People With Parkinson’s (PWP) in Peru. And how do I know ? I know because I interviewed 28 people so I could present a poster on the topic at WPC2019. Thanks for inspiring me to take their story to the world. 

I also had one young neurologist ask what was needed in Parkinson’s research. I pointed him to the patients ideas that came from WPC poster. I don’t know if he’ll do that topic but he’s more aware now and he wants to help organise a Parkinson’s conference next year for health professions and patients. Anyone else want to come and help us? I’ll take you out for same great Peruvian dish like “Lomo Saltado”. 

Lastly I met very innovative and well read twin doctors – One is a neurologist and the other is finishing rehabilitation speciality and they want to start a parkinson’s Centre in Lima. Yes! They’ve a huge heart to see things done well in Peru and I hope I can partner with them to meet their dream. 

These 3 doctors have confirmed that together we are coming to WPC2022 – Go team Peru!  From 1 in 2019 to 4 at a minimum in 2022. 

Thank-you Nacho for giving up your time to share your knowledge in Peru.