The National Institutes of Health is seeking patients with rare and mysterious diseases who have eluded diagnosis for years. Those patients who qualify will get free care at the government's top research hospital where scientists will be trying to figure out why they're sick.

Most of these patients are abandoned by the medical profession because of their inability to diagnose them. The NIH's new, so called "Undiagnosed Diseases Program" will recruit about 100 patients a year and try to help them get diagnosed. Federal health officials hope that revealing some of these super-rare diseases in turn will provide clues to more common illnesses and help them gain more knowledge.

Over 10,000 new patients a year sign up for about 1,500 different research studies, many of them for rare diseases. The new Undiagnosed Diseases Program will recruit people with the rarest of the rare diseases, including those with truly brand-new ailments, who otherwise would be turned down because there are no studies researching their specific symptoms. They don't promise a diagnosis, but the chance to be reevaluated by a team of renowned specialists.

To enter the new program, a doctor must refer a mystery patient to the NIH and send all medical files for evaluation. Accepted patients will undergo up to a week's additional testing at the Clinical Center, for free.