Parkinson’s and the Pan American Community

This week, members of our team are in Florida for an exciting first-time medical meeting, the Pan American Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Congress. It brings together a subset of a global group of professionals who research and treat movement disorders, including Parkinson’s.

Scientists and health professionals are gathering at this meeting to share the latest research and to answer the question: how can we advance care for people with Parkinson’s and movement disorders in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean?

Not only that, groundbreaking research funded by the foundation is front-and-center.

This week’s conference highlights unmet needs in Parkinson’s in the Americas. Back in 2009, the foundation and Ignacio Fernandez Mata, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, foresaw these unmet needs and joined forces to address them.

With our support, Dr. Mata created the first large genetics study of Latinos living with Parkinson’s. More recently, in 2016, he was awarded a prestigious three-year grant from the foundation to expand the Latin American Research Consortium on the Genetics of PD (LARGE-PD).

"In Parkinson's, genetic studies have advanced the field immeasurably, but they have been confined to studying those of European ancestry, which limits our knowledge and puts non-Europeans at risk for health disparities," said Dr. Mata in 2016. "The foundation understood this unmet need early on and, at the start of my career, provided seed funding to create LARGE-PD, which has recruited more than 4,000 individuals across Latin America."

With new funding, he is planning the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) in Latinos with PD, with the ultimate goal of understanding genetics affect the risk of someone of a certain ethnicity for developing Parkinson’s. He stresses that the study will not only help us to better understand Parkinson’s in Latinos, but it will also provide clues for understanding PD overall.

This week, he is among the leaders presenting at the Pan American Congress. We applaud his early identification these unmet needs in the Americas and are proud to support his work. 

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