Recent research points to the importance of a molecule called relaxin-3 in the brain, with effects on various processes and behaviors such as mood, stress, and cognition. Because these are often aberrant in mental illnesses, investigators are studying the potential of relaxin-3-based interventions to treat depression, anxiety, and other conditions.

A new review looks at where such research stands and what additional studies are necessary.

"There is a need for new and better drugs for mental illnesses. 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," said Dr.. Gavin Dawe, senior author of the British Journal of Pharmacology review. "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."

Article: Relaxin' the brain: a case for targeting the nucleus incertus network and relaxin-3/RXFP3 system in neuropsychiatric disorders, Jigna Rajesh Kumar, Ramamoorthy Rajkumar, Tharindunee Jayakody, Subhi Marwari, Jia Mei Hong, Sherie Ma, Andrew L Gundlach, Mitchell K P Lai, Gavin S Dawe, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, doi: 10.1111/bph.13564, published online 6 September.