Youngest Alzheimer's Patient Ever Baffles Scientists


| LAST UPDATE 07/26/2023

By Stanley Wickens
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In an astonishing medical revelation, neurologists from a memory clinic in China have diagnosed a 19-year-old with Alzheimer's disease. This makes him the youngest known person globally to be afflicted with this condition, typically associated with old age.

The teenage boy first started showing signs of memory decline when he was just 17. Over time, his cognitive losses grew more severe. Brain scans revealed significant shrinkage in his hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for forming memories. Moreover, his cerebrospinal fluid indicated typical markers of dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is often perceived as a disease of the elderly, but early-onset Alzheimer's, affecting individuals under 65, accounts for up to 10% of all cases. In almost all instances where patients are under 30, their Alzheimer's can be traced back to pathological gene mutations. This places them in the category of familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). The earlier the onset, the higher the likelihood that it is due to an inherited genetic fault. However, in this case, the researchers at Beijing's Capital Medical University were unable to find any of the usual suspect genes or mutations that typically cause early-onset Alzheimer's. This presented a puzzle because, prior to this, the youngest Alzheimer's patient was 21 and carried a particular gene mutation known to cause the disease.

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This young man's case is a mystery. He had no family history of Alzheimer's or dementia, ruling out FAD as a potential cause. Additionally, there were no other illnesses, infections, or head traumas that could explain his sudden cognitive decline. A year after being referred to the memory clinic, tests showed that he had significant losses in immediate recall, short-delay recall after three minutes, and long-delay recall after half an hour. His memory scores were drastically lower than his peers' average scores, by 82% and 87%.

While further follow-up is needed, his medical team acknowledges that this case challenges our understanding of Alzheimer's typical age of onset. "The patient had very early-onset AD with no clear pathogenic mutations," they noted, highlighting the need for further exploration into its cause. "Exploring the mysteries of young people with Alzheimer's disease may become one of the most challenging scientific questions of the future," they predict. Their findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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