Brendan LeeBrendan Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine Over the past few years, we have tried to translate our experience in treating urea cycle disorders to developing new applications for maple syrup urine disease.

Sodium phenylbutyrate is a medication that has been routinely used to treat urea cycle disorders. We have observed that this medication can lower branched chain amino acids. While this side effect is important for its use in urea cycle disorders, we wanted to test whether it may be useful in lowering branched chain amino acids in MSUD.

In our preliminary studies in patients with MSUD, skin cells from patients with MSUD, and mice, we have discovered that phenylbutyrate may indeed be useful in lowering branched chain amino acids in at least some cases of MSUD. However, it is still too early to recommend its wide spread use.

We are planning to perform a definitive clinical trial to test the effectiveness of phenylbutyrate in MSUD, and to determine whether we can develop tools to screen for patients who might respond to its use. We don’t expect that this treatment can cure MSUD. Instead, we hope that it may be a useful treatment in combination with standard dietary therapy. Together we hope that this may decrease frequency and severity of illnesses as well as enable relaxation of dietary restriction.

If you would like to participate in a web conference to learn more about Dr. Lee’s study, contact Sandy Bulcher at 614.389.2739 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24th at 7 pm CST. Participation is limited to 50 people so interested individuals should respond quickly. Dr. Lee will also be presenting at the MSUD Disease Family Support Group Symposium on June 24-26.


The MSUD Family Support Group is currently funding several research projects and we are proactively looking for researchers interested in developing new treatments or finding a cure for MSUD. Significant funding is necessary if we are to accomplish this goal.
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