Menkes' disease and swayback. A comparative study of two copper deficiency syndromes

J Neurol Sci. 1983 Dec;62(1-3):95-113. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(83)90192-2.


The neuropathological findings in two siblings with Menkes' disease were compared with representative material obtained from lambs suffering from swayback (enzootic ataxia). The aim of the study was to demonstrate the similarity of lesions in a genetic and a nutritional form of copper deficiency in support of the view that all lesions in Menkes' disease could be ascribed to simple hypocupraemia. All lesions of Menkes' disease were shown to have their counterpart in swayback, with exception of the abnormal arborisations of the Purkinje cell dendrites. These have often been interpreted as malformations and cited in evidence of the prenatal origin of the cerebral lesions. They are, however, non-specific and similar lesions have been reported in conditions arising in later life. While there is abundant collateral evidence of disturbed copper metabolism in utero, the problem of the prenatal versus postnatal origin of cerebral damage remains unresolved.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / pathology*
  • Cerebellar Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / pathology*
  • Purkinje Cells / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / pathology
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Swayback / pathology*


  • Copper