Neurologists at a memory clinic in China have diagnosed a 19-year-old with what they believe is Alzheimer’s diseasemaking him the youngest person in the world to be diagnosed with the condition.
The male teenager began to experience memory decline around the age of 17, and the cognitive losses only increased over the years.
Imaging of the patient’s brain showed shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is associated with memory, and his cerebrospinal fluid showed signs of common markers of this most common form of dementia..
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is often thought of as a disease of old people, yet early-onset cases, including patients under the age of 65, account for up to 10 percent of all diagnoses.
Almost all patients under the age of 30 can have their Alzheimer’s explained by pathological gene mutations, placing them in the category of familial Alzheimer’s disease (LONG). The younger a person is when diagnosed, the more likely it is the result of an inherited faulty gene.
But researchers at Capital Medical University in Beijing were unable to find any of the common mutations responsible for the early onset of memory loss, nor any suspect genes when they searched the whole genome.
Before this diagnosis in China, the youngest patient with Alzheimer’s who was 21 years old. They carried the PSEN1 gene mutationcausing abnormal proteins to build up in the brain, forming clumps of toxic plaques, a common feature of Alzheimer’s.
frameborder=”0″ allow=” accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-writing; encrypted media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web sharing” allowfullscreen>
Cases like the latest one in China are a mystery. None of the 19-year-old’s family had a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia, making it difficult to classify him as FAD, but the teenager also had no other diseases, infections or trauma that could explain his sudden cognitive decline.
Two years before he was referred to the memory clinic, the teenage patient began to struggle to concentrate in class. Reading also became difficult and his short-term memory deteriorated. Often, he could not remember the events of the previous day, and he was constantly misplacing his belongings.
Ultimately, the cognitive decline became so bad, the young man was unable to finish high school, although he could still live independently.
One year after being referred to the memory clinic, he showed losses on immediate recall, short-delay recall after three minutes, and long-delay recall after 30 minutes.
The patient’s full-scale memory score was 82 percent lower than that of his peers, and his immediate memory score was 87 percent lower.
Long-term follow-up is needed to support the young man’s diagnosis, but his medical team said the patient is “changing our understanding of the typical age of onset of AD.”
“The patient had very early AD with no obvious pathogenic mutations,” neuroscientist Jianping Jia and colleagues they wrote in their study“which suggests that there is still a need to explore its pathogenesis.”
The case study, published in February, shows that Alzheimer’s does not follow a single path, and is much more complex than we thought, developing through many pathways with different effects.
I statement to the South China Morning Post, the neurologists who described the patient’s case argued that future studies should focus on early-onset cases to further improve our understanding of memory loss.
“Exploring the mysteries of young people with Alzheimer’s disease may prove to be one of the most challenging scientific questions of the future,” they said. prophecy.
The study was published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
An earlier version of this article was published in February 2023.