Jianping Jia’s team from Xuanwu Hospital reports the world’s first case of 19-year-old Alzheimer’s patient: Call attention to adolescents with memory disorders!

On January 31, 2023, Jia Jianping’s team at Xuanwu Hospital published on the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a case of memory disorder at the age of 17 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at the age of 19, the youngest patient to date. It rewrites the world’s understanding of the age of onset of the disease, overturns the traditional concept of “AD is exclusive to the elderly”, and puts forward that it is imperative to pay attention to the youth of AD, and exploring the mystery of AD in young people may become one of the most challenging scientific problems in the future.

Age is an important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Since the first case of AD was reported in 1906, it has been widely believed that AD mainly occurs in the elderly. Jia’s team reported on a case of a 17-year-old who developed memory disorders and was diagnosed with AD at 19 years old. The patient began to have difficulty concentrating on learning two years before the visit. One year later, he had significant short-term memory loss, an inability to recall the previous day’s events or where personal belongings were stored, difficulty reading, and slow reaction times.As the disease progressed, his memory deteriorated further, he often lost personal belongings, could not remember whether he had eaten or not, and had difficulty completing study material and homework assigned by teachers.Due to the severe memory decline, his academic performance dropped from the above average level to the bottom of his class. He was unable to complete his studies and had to drop out of high school.

During the diagnosis and treatment of the patient, Jia’s team found that the main manifestation of the patient was memory decline, especially episodic memory, which was supported by the Wechsler memory Scale and auditory word learning test assessment. In addition, cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers showed decreased Aβ1-42/1-40 ratio and increased p-tau, head MRI scans showed bilateral hippocampal atrophy disproportionate to adolescents, no family history of genetic disease, and no other causes of memory impairment such as genetics, infection, and systemic disease. All of these conform to the internationally recognized diagnostic criteria for AD (NIA-AA). Whole genome sequencing did not reveal any risk or causative gene mutations in the patient, ruling out familial AD.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease with multiple mechanisms. There are more than 50 million elderly people in China with cognitive impairment, among whom more than 15 million suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which costs more than 1 trillion yuan every year, bringing a heavy burden to the country and society. Conventional wisdom holds that cognitive impairment, let alone AD, is rare in young adults. The results reported in this study overturn this concept, and for the first time in the history of AD research, it is suggested that young people also have non-hereditary AD, which has attracted wide attention. Professor George Perry, editor in chief of the journal of Alzheimer’s disease, commented on this article entitled “Alzheimer’s disease: Not Just for the Aged? ” The significance of this report is that AD is no longer a disease exclusive to the elderly, and there is a possibility of younger people. Attention should be paid to the possibility of AD in young people, which opens up a new challenge for AD research.

To rejuvenate the country through science and technology is to rejuvenate the country through brain power. The maintenance of brain health should start from young people. Strengthening brain scientific research is a great matter concerning the prosperity of the country and the nation.Young people are the hope and future of the motherland. Memory impairment in young people may be influenced by genetic factors (e.g., disease-causing or risk gene mutations, epigenetics), environmental factors, family education, and unhealthy lifestyles (e.g., unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse, smoking, physical inactivity). Therefore, we should pay more attention to young people’s brain health and its related influencing factors, so that they can be timely detected and effectively treated, so as to thrive and achieve the grand goal of a healthy China.