John Paul Jr. once ranking among the nation's top professional racecar drivers, winning in Indy cars and sports cars, but he was forced to retire from competition in 2001 when he noticed that his car would not respond the way he thought his hands and feet were telling it to while driving. Paul Jr. was subsequently diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a progressive neurological disorder.
“It was starting to invade my racing,” Paul Jr. recalls. “I was having to actually talk my way around the track. I was having to tell myself to turn, accelerate, brake, instead of it just flowing.”
Huntington's is a genetic disorder that causes degeneration of cells in certain areas of the brain, leading to uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties and emotional disturbance. John Paul's grandmother and mother also had the disease.
But the recent discovery of the Huntington gene – a mutation of one gene that sets in motion an attack deep within the area of the brain called the basal ganglia – offers hope for those with Huntington's disease as well as patient's with other neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
“As we develop better understanding for what's causing Huntington's Disease, targeted approaches can be made to stop the problems from happening, with the ultimate goal to delay the onset or the progression of the disease, to stop the damage from happening,” says UCLA neurologist Yvette Bordelon, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the UCLA Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Studies. “A few years after the gene had been found, there were maybe three human clinical trials that had been done or were being conducted in Huntington's disease. Now there are 21.”
John Paul's hope is that new discoveries will come in time to help his own children, who, like him, may have inherited the defective gene from their parent. "That would be his ultimate winning race", says his half-sister, AJ Paul.
To help the cause, John Paul has started a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund to raise money strictly for HD research. All donations to this fund are 100% tax deductible and will go directly to funding HD research and setting up a new research lab. If you would like to contribute, checks should be made out to:
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, with “John Paul Jr. Fund” listed in the memo section.
All donations should be sent to 23371 Mulholland Dr., Suite 187, Woodland Hills, CA. 91364.
UCLA also has a fund that donates to research department for Neurology. It is also tax deductible and you can select to "direct funds" to John Paul Jr. That site is https://giving.ucla.edu/Standard/NetDonate.aspx?SiteNum=137.