A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has diagnosed a 19-year-old Chinese man with probable Alzheimer’s disease. The teenager has been experiencing memory problems since he was 17 years old, prompting researchers at the Beijing Capital Medical University to run a series of tests to come to this conclusion.
What is surprising about this case is that, although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, brain scans have shown no signs of the buildup of the beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which are often associated with the disease. Instead, the researchers found abnormally high levels of the protein p-tau181 in the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, indicating a possible form of Alzheimer’s that is not yet well understood.
Almost all cases of Alzheimer’s in people under the age of 30 are caused by inherited faulty genes, but in this case, a genetic cause has been ruled out. The researchers performed a complete sequence of the patient’s genome, but did not find any known mutations. In addition, no one in the young man’s family has had a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Alzheimer’s cases in young people are on the rise
At the age of 17, the young man began having trouble concentrating at school and at age 18, he lost his short-term memory. As his disease progressed, his memory loss became so severe that he even had to drop out of high school his senior year. Standard cognitive tests confirmed a probable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and brain scans showed a reduction in the size of her hippocampus, a part of the brain linked to memory. This case is a medical mystery, as performing a brain biopsy would be too risky. But as Alzheimer’s cases in young patients are on the rise, this probably won’t be the last startling case of its kind. The International Alzheimer’s Federation estimates that 75% of people with dementia are undiagnosed worldwide, and that rate is believed to be as high as 90% in some low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of people over 65 with Alzheimer’s will increase, if medical advances are not developed to prevent or cure the disease.