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19-year-old is youngest ever person to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

February 23, 2023 · Comment icon 12 comments

Dementia impacts millions of people around the world. Image Credit: Pixabay / Lukas_Rychvalsky
The patient, who hails from China, had been experiencing problems with his memory for the better part of two years.
A 19-year-old man from China, who has been having memory problems since the age of 17, was diagnosed with dementia, according to a recent case study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

After conducting a barrage of tests, researchers at the Capital Medical University in Beijing diagnosed the teenager with "probable" Alzheimer's disease. If the diagnosis is correct, he will be the youngest person ever to be recorded with the mind-robbing disease.

The main risk factor for the disease is getting old, which makes this latest case so unusual.

The exact causes of Alzheimer's are still largely unknown, but a classical feature of the disease is the build-up of two proteins in the brain: beta-amyloid and tau. In people with Alzheimer's, beta-amyloid is usually found in large quantities outside of neurons (brain cells), and tau "tangles" are found inside axons, the long, slender projection of neurons.

However, scans failed to show any signs of these features in the 19-year-old's brain. But the researchers did find abnormally high levels of a protein called p-tau181 in the patient's cerebrospinal fluid. This typically happens before the formation of tau tangles in the brain.

Nearly all cases of Alzheimer's disease in people younger than 30 are due to inherited faulty genes. Indeed, the previous youngest case - a 21-year-old - had a genetic cause.

Three genes have been linked to Alzheimer's disease in the young: amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and presenilin 2 (PSEN2).

These genes are involved in producing a protein fragment called beta-amyloid peptide, a precursor to the previously mentioned beta-amyloid. If the gene is faulty, it can lead to an abnormal build-up (plaques) of beta-amyloid in the brain - a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease and a target for treatments such as the recently approved drug lecanemab.

People only need one of APP, PSEN1 or PSEN2 to be faulty to develop Alzheimer's disease, and their children have a 50:50 chance of inheriting the gene from them and developing the disease, too.
However, a genetic cause was ruled out in this latest case as the researchers performed a whole-genome sequence of the patient and failed to find any known genetic mutations. And nobody in the teenager's family has a history of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

The young man also had no other diseases, infections or head trauma that might explain his condition. It is clear that whatever form of Alzheimer's he has, it is extremely rare.

Severely impaired memory

At the age of 17, the patient started having problems concentrating on his school studies. This was followed a year later by the loss of his short-term memory. He couldn't recall if he'd eaten or done his homework. His memory loss became so severe that he had to drop out of high school (he was in his final year).

A probable diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was confirmed by standard cognitive tests used to detect memory loss. The results suggested his memory was severely impaired. The brain scans also showed that his hippocampus - a part of the brain involved in memory - had shrunk. This is a typical early sign of dementia.

A brain biopsy would be too risky, so understanding the biological mechanisms of his dementia is difficult - and this case remains a medical mystery at this point.

Cases of early-onset Alzheimer's disease are on the rise in younger patients. Sadly, this is unlikely to be the last such rare case that we hear about.

Osman Shabir, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article. The Conversation

Source: The Conversation | Comments (12)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by spartan max2 3 months ago
All we can do is hope that they will have real treatment by the time you get it. Or by the time I am at risk.
Comment icon #4 Posted by HSlim 3 months ago
Luckily scientists have made a lot of advancements in the last few years in slowing the progress of the disease. So, hopefully by that time I'll have a cure or a treatment that fully halts progress. But I refuse to be reduced to crying in the corner, babbling to a teddy bear who I think is real, defecating on myself and not recognizing my spouse or children the way my grandmother was.
Comment icon #5 Posted by OverSword 3 months ago
I knew a guy with early onset Alzheimer's who died in his thirties. It was a bummer how quickly he decayed.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Sir Wearer of Hats 3 months ago
I once had to assist in administering an alzheimers test to a ten year old, poor thing had incredible trouble retaining/recalling information.
Comment icon #7 Posted by OpenMindedSceptic 3 months ago
Ah hope the kid gets some help. As for the doctors with their westernised medicine, they have no idea but have to label it somehow. Is it Alzheimers? Something new? Something holistic medicine can give relief or remedy to? Hope he finds a way forward.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Festina 3 months ago
Life in the Flesh on Earth is Hell. The god of this world is the devil. If you doubt just read the first t books of the old. testament. Life is Hell. Everyone suffers, some more than others. If you think people have it better than or are happier than you you just dont know them very well, everyone has **** in their lives as we are all in hell. Be grateful its temporary.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Cho Jinn 3 months ago
Does he want to be President of the United States? If he becomes clinically depressed then he could also be a senator in Pennsylvania.
Comment icon #10 Posted by spartan max2 3 months ago
People with depression do plenty of jobs. Depression is not indicative of if someone is capable of their job or not. That type of stigma is why so many people don't seek treatment for their depression
Comment icon #11 Posted by Cho Jinn 3 months ago
Agreed, but not all of them, evidently.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Black Red Devil 3 months ago
That's sad. My mum had Dementia and quickly developed into the final stage of the disease where she couldn'r walk anymore, had ulcers because she was bedridden and weak and talked constantly gibberish words without meaning. It's a terrible thing to experience to see the intelligent person you've known all your life turn into something unrecognisable (not just mentally, even physically). I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies.

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