Simulation of undiagnosed patients with novel genetic conditions

Nat Commun. 2023 Oct 12;14(1):6403. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41980-6.


Rare Mendelian disorders pose a major diagnostic challenge and collectively affect 300-400 million patients worldwide. Many automated tools aim to uncover causal genes in patients with suspected genetic disorders, but evaluation of these tools is limited due to the lack of comprehensive benchmark datasets that include previously unpublished conditions. Here, we present a computational pipeline that simulates realistic clinical datasets to address this deficit. Our framework jointly simulates complex phenotypes and challenging candidate genes and produces patients with novel genetic conditions. We demonstrate the similarity of our simulated patients to real patients from the Undiagnosed Diseases Network and evaluate common gene prioritization methods on the simulated cohort. These prioritization methods recover known gene-disease associations but perform poorly on diagnosing patients with novel genetic disorders. Our publicly-available dataset and codebase can be utilized by medical genetics researchers to evaluate, compare, and improve tools that aid in the diagnostic process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Patients*
  • Phenotype
  • Rare Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Rare Diseases* / genetics