BACKGROUND. Wolfram syndrome is a rare ER disorder characterized by insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, optic nerve atrophy, and progressive neurodegeneration. Although there is no treatment for Wolfram syndrome, preclinical studies in cell and rodent models suggest that therapeutic strategies targeting ER calcium homeostasis, including dantrolene sodium, may be beneficial. METHODS. Based on results from preclinical studies on dantrolene sodium and ongoing longitudinal studies, we assembled what we believe is the first-ever clinical trial in pediatric and adult Wolfram syndrome patients with an open-label phase Ib/IIa trial design. The primary objective was to assess the safety and tolerability of dantrolene sodium in adult and pediatric Wolfram syndrome patients. Secondary objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of dantrolene sodium on residual pancreatic β cell functions, visual acuity, quality-of-life measures related to vision, and neurological functions. RESULTS. Dantrolene sodium was well tolerated by Wolfram syndrome patients. Overall, β cell functions were not significantly improved, but there was a significant correlation between baseline β cell functions and change in β cell responsiveness (R2, P = 0.004) after 6-month dantrolene therapy. Visual acuity and neurological functions were not improved by 6-month dantrolene sodium. Markers of inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress, such as IFN-γ, IL-1β, TNF-α, and isoprostane, were elevated in subjects. CONCLUSION. This study justifies further investigation into using dantrolene sodium and other small molecules targeting the ER for treatment of Wolfram syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere145188
JournalJCI Insight
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 9 2021


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