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Copper Ligands in Human Milk: A Vehicle for Copper Supplementation in the Treatment of Menkes' Disease?

BO LöNNERDAL, PHD; CARL L. KEEN, PHD; BRUCE HOFFMAN; LUCILLE S. HURLEY, PHD
Am J Dis Child. 1980;134(8):802-803. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1980.02130200070029.
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To the Editor.—Recent results from our laboratory have shown that human milk, unlike cow's milk, contains a low-molecular-weight (LMW) zinc complex,1 now identified as zinc citrate.2 We have therefore hypothesized that the therapeutic value of human milk in the treatment of acrodermatitis enteropathica (AE), a genetic disorder of zinc metabolism, is due to the presence of this complex, which is thought to be highly available for absorption.3,4

Assuming that human milk may contain LMW copper as well as zinc complexes, Williams et al5 have suggested that human milk may also be of therapeutic value in the treatment of Menkes' kinky hair disease, a sexlinked genetic disorder in humans that is manifested by abnormal intestinal copper absorption and many characteristics similar to those of copper-deficient animals.6 Despite the aggressive use of copper in infants with Menkes' disease, the prognosis for these patients has not improved.

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