Suramin is 100 years old and is still being used to treat the first stage of acute human sleeping sickness, caused by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. Suramin is a multifunctional molecule with a wide array of potential applications, from parasitic and viral diseases to cancer, snakebite, and autism. Suramin is also an enigmatic molecule: What are its targets? How does it get into cells in the first place? Here, we provide an overview of the many different candidate targets of suramin and discuss its modes of action and routes of cellular uptake. We reason that, once the polypharmacology of suramin is understood at the molecular level, new, more specific, and less toxic molecules can be identified for the numerous potential applications of suramin.
- Human African trypanosomiasis
- Sleeping sickness
- Trypanosoma brucei