Neurologists at a memory clinic in China have diagnosed a 19-year-old man with Alzheimer’s, making him the youngest person in the world with the condition.
According to a recent case study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a 19-year-old male from China who has had memory problems since age 17 was diagnosed with dementia.
Around age 17, the teen started experiencing memory deterioration and had difficulty concentrating on his high school studies. The cognitive decline worsened, and a year later, he started suffering from short-term memory loss.
The patient’s brain imaging revealed memory-related hippocampal shrinkage, and his cerebrospinal fluid suggested usual indicators of this most prevalent type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is typically considered a disorder of the elderly. However, early-onset instances, which include people under the age of 65, account for up to 10% of all diagnoses.
Pathological gene mutations can explain Alzheimer’s in nearly all patients under 30, classifying them as having familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). The younger a person is at the time of diagnosis, the more likely it is due to an inherited defective gene.
When researchers from the Capital Medical University in Beijing analyzed the genome, they found no evidence of any normal mutations that cause early onset of memory loss, nor any problematic genes.
Before this recent diagnosis in China, the youngest Alzheimer’s patient was 21 years old. They had the PSEN1 gene mutation, which causes aberrant proteins to accumulate in the brain, generating toxic plaque clumps, a typical hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Tests Performed
Doctors working on the case dug deep into the teen’s medical and family history and conducted a series of tests to learn more about his illness. They discovered that he had a normal childhood development and that none of his parents, grandparents, or other relatives had a history of dementia, cognitive impairment, or psychiatric disease.
Doctors ruled out other common causes of cognitive impairment in young people, such as infection, inflammation, intoxication, trauma, abnormal metabolism, and “congenital abnormalities” because the patient had no history of head injuries, psychiatric or psychological disorders, or diseases associated with memory loss.
The teen also undertook MRI and CT scans, blood and urine analysis, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis, a tau tracer to look for tau tangles, and several neuropsychological tests for memory, mental state, anxiety, dementia, and depression.
His MRI revealed atrophy in the hippocampus—the loss of nerve cells and the connections that enable them to communicate in the brain’s tissues—and his CSF showed abnormal tau buildup.
Also, he performed worse than average on the World Health Organization-University of California, Los Angeles Auditory Verbal Learning Test, indicating a significant memory impairment.
To identify DNA mutations linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s, doctors sequenced the teenager’s and his family members’ genes but found none.
Alzheimer’s can occur sporadically due to heredity, aging, the environment, or pathogenic gene mutations.
Younger people are more likely to have these gene changes, as was the case with the previous youngest Alzheimer’s patient. As a result, specialists were perplexed by the teen’s diagnosis and the lack of any mutations. They said his instance had changed their knowledge of the average age of the disease onset.
The researchers did not specify what kind of treatment or assistance their young patient will receive, but they stated that they intend to follow up with him in the long term to understand the disease.
- Jia, J., Zhang, Y., Shi, Y., Yin, X., Wang, S., Li, Y., Zhao, T., Liu, W., Zhou, A. and Jia, L., 2022. A 19-Year-Old Adolescent with Probable Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, (Preprint), pp.1-8.
- Agüero, P., Sainz, M.J., Téllez, R., Lorda, I., Ávila, A., García-Ribas, G., Rodríguez, P.P. and Gómez-Tortosa, E., 2021. De novo PS1 mutation (Pro436Gln) in a very early-onset posterior variant of Alzheimer’s disease associated with spasticity: A case report. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 83(3), pp.1011-1016.
- Neurologists Diagnose The Youngest Case of Alzheimer’s Ever Reported. Science Alert. https://www.sciencealert.com/neurologists-diagnose-the-youngest-case-of-alzheimers-ever-reported. Published online: 16th Feb, 23. Accessed: 3rd March, 23.
- 19-year-old becomes youngest ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. National Post. https://nationalpost.com/health/19-year-old-youngest-ever-with-alzheimers. Published online: 16th Feb, 23. Accessed: 3rd March, 23.
- Teenager in China becomes youngest person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. CTV News. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/teenager-in-china-becomes-youngest-person-diagnosed-with-alzheimer-s-disease-1.6281387. Published online: 21st Feb, 23. Accessed: 3rd March, 23.
- A 19-year-old is the youngest person to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – the cause is a mystery. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/a-19-year-old-is-the-youngest-person-to-be-diagnosed-with-alzheimers-disease-the-cause-is-a-mystery-200001. Published online: 22nd Feb, 23. Accessed: 3rd March, 23.