The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced the launch of the Undiagnosed Diseases Program, which will combine the knowledge of a number of NIH programs already in place. The program will focus on puzzling medical cases that are referred to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md, by physicians across the country.

“The history of biomedical research has taught us that careful study of baffling cases can provide new insights into the mechanisms of disease —both rare and common,” says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD. “The goal of NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program is two-pronged: to improve disease management for individual patients and to advance medical knowledge in general.”

More than 25 of the NIH’s senior attending physicians will work to evaluate patients enrolled in the program. To be admitted to the program for evaluation, physicians must refer a patient, and all medical records and diagnostic test results must be provided to the NIH. Patients will then undergo additional evaluation during a visit to the NIH Clinical Center for up to a week.

Funding for the program includes $280,000 per year from the NIH Office of Rare Diseases.