Menkes syndrome is a sex-linked recessive condition characterized by seizures and neurological deterioration, abnormalities of connective tissue, and coarse, kinky hair. Affected males are often diagnosed within the first few months of life and die in early childhood.
Menkes syndrome is also known as Menkes disease and "kinky hair syndrome." It was originally described in 1962 based on a family of English and Irish descent who had five male infants with a distinctive syndrome of progressive neurological degeneration, peculiar hair, and failure to thrive. Each of the boys appeared normal at birth but, by the age of several months, developed seizures and began to regress in their physical skills. Each child died at an early age, with the oldest surviving only until three-and-a-half years. In 1972, Menkes syndrome was linked to an inborn copper deficiency. It is now clear that this lack of copper, an essential element for normal growth and development, inhibits the work of specific enzymes in the body. The clinical signs and symptoms of Menkes syndrome are a direct result of these biochemical abnormalities.
Approximately 90–95% of patients with Menkes syndrome have a severe clinical course. This represents classical Menkes syndrome. Males with milder forms of Menkes syndrome have also been described. The mildest presentation is now known as occipital horn syndrome (OHS), which is allelic to Menkes syndrome: both conditions are due to different mutations in the same gene. Mutations responsible for OHS primarily cause connective tissue abnormalities and have significantly milder effects on intellectual development. Individuals with OHS also live longer than those with classical Menkes syndrome.
Terri A. Knutel MS, CGC, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit,