Metabolic Clinical Research Unit

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The Metabolic Clinical Research Unit (MCRU) is a specialized unit located in the NIH Clinical Center. Since 2007, the MCRU has supported clinical research protocols across NIH institutes and collaborations with extramural investigators. Protocols focus on the regulation of human metabolism in healthy volunteers and patients with various metabolic diseases and conditions, including obesity, diabetes, liver diseases, rare genetic conditions, neurological disorders, and cancers. View a video about the MCRU and take the virtual tour.

Contact Us

Want to conduct research?

Email the MCRU co-directors.

Want to volunteer for a study?

Visit or contact the NIH Clinical Center’s Patient Recruitment office.

Inpatient and Outpatient Clinical Support

The NIH Clinical Center provides nurses and the following inpatient and outpatient facilities for the MCRU.

  • Comprehensive and specialized nursing support for patient care and metabolic research testing
  • Large expanded-capacity private rooms for inpatient and outpatient stays, observations, and research procedures
  • In-room exercise machines (treadmills or cycle ergometers)

Nutrition Research Services

The NIH Clinical Center provides nutrition research staff and the following nutrition research services for the MCRU.

  • Metabolic kitchen for standard meals to specialized metabolic diets
  • Experimental dining room for ad libitum feeding studies to assess real-time preferences and perform satiety, and satiation assessments
  • Communal dining table for metabolic meal consumption and to simulate shared eating behaviors
  • Restricted access to ad libitum foods to facilitate controlled-feeding studies

Metabolic Testing

The NIDDK Human Energy and Body Weight Regulation Core provides metabolic testing for the MCRU. Tests include:

  • Energy Metabolism – three whole-room indirect calorimetry suites (metabolic chambers) that provide continuous energy expenditure measurements for up-to 24 hours and four portable metabolic carts that provide resting and postprandial energy expenditure measurements
  • Body Composition – dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), air-displacement plethysmography (BodPod), bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and spectroscopy (BIS), and standard anthropometry
  • Fitness Testing – maximum or sub-maximum cardiorespiratory exercise tests
  • Portable Monitoring – track physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep patterns, body temperatures, heart rate, and heart rate variability
  • Metabolism and Isotope Fluxes – use clinical metabolic isotopes to measure carbohydrate, lipids, protein turnover and their metabolites
Last Reviewed July 2023