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Living with an undiagnosed medical condition places a tremendous burden on patients, their families, and their healthcare providers. The Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP) was established at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 with the primary goals of providing a diagnosis for patients with mysterious conditions and advancing medical knowledge about rare and common diseases. The program reviews applications from referring clinicians for cases that are considered undiagnosed despite a thorough evaluation. Those that are accepted receive clinical evaluations involving deep phenotyping and genetic testing that includes exome and genomic sequencing. Selected candidate gene variants are evaluated by collaborators using functional assays. Since its inception, the UDP has received more than 4500 applications and has completed evaluations on nearly 1300 individuals. Here we present six cases that exemplify the discovery of novel disease mechanisms, the importance of deep phenotyping for rare diseases, and how genetic diagnoses have led to appropriate treatment. The creation of the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN) in 2014 has substantially increased the number of patients evaluated and allowed for greater opportunities for data sharing. Expansion to the Undiagnosed Diseases Network International (UDNI) has the possibility to extend this reach even farther. Together, networks of undiagnosed diseases programs are powerful tools to advance our knowledge of pathophysiology, accelerate accurate diagnoses, and improve patient care for patients with rare conditions. © 2022 SSIEM. This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.


Carolina Montano, Thomas Cassini, Shira G Ziegler, Manfred Boehm, Elena-Raluca Nicoli, Joseph A Mindell, Ariane G Soldatos, Irini Manoli, Lynne Wolfe, Ellen F Macnamara, May Christine V Malicdan, David R Adams, Cynthia J Tifft, Camilo Toro, William A Gahl. Diagnosis and discovery: Insights from the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program. Journal of inherited metabolic disease. 2022 Sep;45(5):907-918

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PMID: 35490291

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