Alzheimer’s disease could no longer be considered an illness that just affects the elderly. A peculiar case of “probable” Alzheimer’s disease has surfaced in China where a 19-year-old teenager showed signs of this disorder. In case the diagnosis gets confirmed, the teenager would become the youngest individual on record suffering from this illness.
At the age of 17, the boy began to frequently forget about eating and started having difficulty keeping track of his belongings. The teen’s condition came to light when he began struggling with his studies due to memory issues and eventually had to drop out of school.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease in young people?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that majorly affects people that are 65 and older in age. Scientists have linked the disease to the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brains. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for up to ten percent of all occurrences of neurological disorders is a rare form of dementia which strikes people under the age of 65.
Image credits: Pixabay
So far, scientists have identified three genes associated with the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease in young people: amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and presenilin 2 (PSEN2).
A flaw in these genes has been related to an unnatural buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain – a key symptom in Alzheimer’s patients. What triggers these genes to cause this condition is still unknown to us.
Case study of the Teenager Alzheimer’s patient
The study reported continuous memory decline for 2 years in the patient and the results of the World Health Organisation-University of California Los Angeles Auditory Verbal Learning Test (WHO-UCLA AVLT) showed memory impairment.
With no known family history of memory-related disorders or any prior head trauma, infection or disease that could have led to memory loss in the teen – this case has baffled the scientists.
Although the researchers of Capital Medical University in Beijing could not find any build-up of beta-amyloid or tau proteins in the patient’s brain, they did find abnormally high levels of “p-tau181” protein in his cerebrospinal fluid. This protein is usually found before the tau proteins form in the brain.
Image Credits: Unsplash
Prior to this, the youngest Alzheimer’s disease patient was aged 21 years and scientists had discovered a mutation in the PSEN1 gene. However, in the case of the 19-year-old boy, even after sequencing the entire genome, scientists discovered no gene mutations that could be linked to the condition.
Surprisingly, they did observe signs of deterioration in the hippocampus, a region in the brain responsible for converting short-term memories into long-term ones. They also discovered symptoms of low metabolism in the bilateral temporal lobe brain area, which is associated with memory encoding.
According to scientists, this is the first-ever case of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease without a known genetic mutation. For now, the researchers have termed this as a “probable” diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Investigating the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease in young people might pose as one of the most complex scientific challenges of the future.
This research was published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you enjoyed reading our articles, please consider supporting us by buying our geeky merchandise on Instagram.