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Metabolic Trap Study

Beginning in 2018, the aim of this study was to test the hypothesis developed by Dr Phair that a crucial component of metabolism in ME/CFS patients appears to be “trapped” in an unhealthy state.

  • Robert D. Phair, PhD
  • Julie Wilhelmy, PhD
  • Ronald W. Davis, PhD

The modeling progress of this study takes into account the compartmentalization of the Trp (Tryptophan) to Kyn (Kynurenine) pathways. Further, these pathways are being validated in yeast models. In parallel, there are human cell assays that are under development to evaluate these pathways in human cells, monocytes/macrophages and the analytical methods are underway.


The metabolic trap theory emerged from the genetic and metabolomics data from the Severely ill Patients Study (SIPS). Using previously published work, Dr Phair has developed a computational program that can model the flow of metabolism throughout the body and its cells.  Using this technology, Dr Phair can determine any points that may disrupt the flow using genomic and metabolic information and this has led to the hypothesis of a metabolic trap that occurs in ME/CFS patients at the point in metabolism where tryptophan is converted to serotonin and kynurenine.


A representation of the 3D structure of the protein myoglobin showing turquoise α-helices. To test the hypothesis, experiments were initiated to measure the levels of tryptophan and kynurenine in cells from ME/CFS patients. This is a complicated procedure, as taking cells out of the body without disrupting their inherent metabolism is fraught with problems.


Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME / CFS) Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), Fibromyalgia Leading Research. Delivering Hope.Open Medicine Foundation®

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