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Emory Metabolic Camp helps young women take charge of their lives

In 2015 Emory University held its 21st annual summer Metabolic Camp for young women with inherited metabolic disorders, including phenylketonuria (PKU) and maple syrup urine disease (MSUD). The research-based camp helps adolescent girls and young women learn to take over the lifelong responsibility for managing their own diets and their own health. Educational programs are interspersed with traditional camping activities.

These rare genetic disorders affect how the body processes protein, and as little as one gram of protein can cause irreversible brain damage or death in individuals with these conditions. With early detection through Georgia’s newborn screening program, children can grow to live normal lives, but they must learn early in life to adhere to a special low-protein diet consisting mainly of a specialized medical formula, along with fruits and vegetables. Females, especially, must follow specific diets before and during pregnancy to avoid maternal PKU (MPKU) and prevent mental retardation in their children.

"Metabolic Camp has had a tremendous impact not only on the quality of life of girls over the years but also on the outcome of the next generation of their children," says Rani Singh, PhD, RD, camp director and director of Emory’s Genetics Metabolic Nutrition Program. "Most of these girls can’t attend other camps because of their special dietary needs, and this allows them to interact with others with their conditions and feel less isolated, while learning things that can save their lives and the lives of their future children."

Metabolic Camp is a collaboration between the Department of Human Genetics in Emory University School of Medicine and the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI), an NIH-supported, Emory-led research partnership.

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