Brain Peptide Research Could Lead to New Mental Illness Treatments

Altering relaxin-3 could improve symptoms from mental illness.

Findings from a recent study suggest that the peptide relaxin-3 in the brain could potentially lead to more optimal treatments for mental illness.

Relaxin-3 can affect mood, stress, and cognition. Since these functions are altered in patients with mental illnesses, this presents a potential treatment target, according to a study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology.

“There is a need for new and better drugs for mental illnesses,” said senior author of the study Gavin Dawe, PhD. “An accumulation of recent research points to potential that relaxin-3 and its receptor RXFP3 may be a new target for treatment of these disorders.”

Current treatments for conditions such as depression may take months to become effective. The common antidepressant, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can bind to their targets within minutes, but a mechanism of the drug can cause a time lag of up to 2 months.

Another study discovered that the drug collects on lipid rafts and decreased the amount of G proteins, which can cause numbness in patients with depression. Faster acting drugs to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses could improve quality of life and patient outcomes.

In some cases, more effective treatments could also save lives. Researchers in the current study believe that brain peptide research could lead to new treatments.

“Developments in stapled peptide technology -- whereby peptides are chemically stabilized by crosslinking with small molecules -- are now opening prospects for selectively targeting RXFP3 to develop a new class of drugs for mental illnesses,” Dr Dawe concluded.