Collaboration for rare diabetes: understanding new treatment options for Wolfram syndrome

Endocrine. 2021 Mar;71(3):626-633. doi: 10.1007/s12020-021-02622-3. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Background: Wolfram Syndrome is a very rare genetic disease causing diabetes mellitus, blindness, deafness, diabetes insipidus, and progressive brainstem degeneration. Neurologic symptoms of affected patients include ataxia, sleep apnea, loss of bladder control, dysphagia, loss of taste, and accompanying psychiatric symptoms as a sign of progressive neurodegeneration. Its genetic cause is mainly biallelic mutations of the Wolframin endoplasmatic reticulum transmembrane glycoprotein gene Wfs1. These result in increased ER stress, which in turn induces apoptosis and leads to the depletion of the corresponding cells and a loss of their physiological functions. Though diabetes mellitus is mostly treated by insulin, there is still no proven cure for the disease in general. It leads to premature death in affected individuals-usually within the 4th decade of live.

Current research and treatment trials: Clinical studies are currently being conducted at various locations worldwide to test a therapy for the disease using various approaches.

Potentail of virtual netowrking: As rare diseases in general represent a major challenge for individual clinicians and researchers due to the rarity of diagnosis, the lack of evidence and of value of existing research, international cooperation, coordination and networking leading to an alignment of different stakeholders is necessary to support patients and increase knowledge about these diseases, like wolfram syndrome.

Conclusion: ENDO-ERN and EURRECA are two EU-funded networks that aim to promote knowledge sharing, education and research on rare endocrine diseases.

Keywords: Clinical research collaboration; ENDO-ERN; Monogenetic diabetes; Rare disease network; Wolfram syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Mutation
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / genetics
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / therapy


  • Membrane Proteins