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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Teratogenic effects of suramin on the chick embryo.

Suramin, a polysulfonated naphthylamine, has been used for the chemotherapy of trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis since about the 1920s. Currently, it is also being tested as an anticancer agent. It is hoped that suramin might stop the progression of some kinds of cancer since it has been found to inhibit the proliferation and migration of cells and the formation of new blood vessels. These processes are not only essential for the development and progression of cancer, but also for normal embryonic development. Suramin might, therefore, be a potent teratogen. In the literature, however, we have found only scant information on this subject. In the present study, we demonstrate the teratogenic effects of suramin on chick embryos. Suramin was injected into the coelomic cavity of chick embryos on incubation day (ID) 3. Following reincubation until ID 8, suramin-treated embryos ( n=50) were examined for congenital malformations and compared with a control group ( n=30). The survival rate of suramin-treated embryos was markedly reduced compared with controls (50% vs 90%). Among the 25 survivors the following malformations were recorded: caudal dysgenesia (100%), median facial clefts with hypertelorism (92%), malformations of the aortic arch arteries (88%), hypo-/aplasia of the allantoic vesicle (84%), microphthalmia (52%), abnormalities of the great arterial trunks (44%), unilateral or bilateral cleft lips (40%), heart defects with juxtaposition of the right atrial appendage (36%), persistence of the lens vesicle (32%), median clefts of the lower beak (8%), omphalocele (4%), and cloacal exstrophy (4%). These results show that suramin is a potent teratogen. The possible implications of our findings for human beings and the possible teratogenic mechanisms of suramin are discussed. Use of suramin in experimental teratology might help to clarify the morphogenesis of median facial clefts and of some congenital heart defects.[1]


  1. Teratogenic effects of suramin on the chick embryo. Männer, J., Seidl, W., Heinicke, F., Hesse, H. Anat. Embryol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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