Rare disease experts detail the first results of an unprecedented collaboration to diagnose people living with unsolved cases of rare diseases across Europe. The findings are published today in a series of six papers in the European Journal of Human Genetics.
In the main publication, an international consortium, known as Solve-RD, explains how the periodic reanalysis of genomic and phenotypic information from people living with a rare disease can boost the chance of diagnosis when combined with data sharing across European borders on a massive scale. Using this new approach, a preliminary reanalysis of data from 8,393 individuals resulted in 255 new diagnoses, some with atypical manifestations of known diseases.
A complementary study describes the method in more detail and four accompanying case studies showcase the advantages of the approach. In one case study, researchers used the method to identify a new genetic form of pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 1 (PCH1), a genetic disease that affects the development of the brain. PCH1 is normally linked to mutations in four known genes. The researchers used the method to identify a new variant in a fifth gene.
The consortium, which consists of more than 300 researchers and clinicians in fifteen countries, and who collectively see more than 270,000 rare disease patients each year, aims to eventually diagnose more than 19,000 unsolved cases of rare diseases with an unknown molecular cause. Their preliminary findings are an important first step for the development of a European-wide system to facilitate the diagnosis rare diseases, which can be a long and arduous process.