Peptide Neurobiology Laboratory
Dementia and psychiatric illnesses remain major clinical, scientific, societal and economic problems. A better understanding of how the brain controls physiology and behaviour and how this becomes dysfunctional due to ageing and disease pathology is urgently required. Basic research studies are therefore needed to identify new structural and molecular neural targets that may form the basis of novel therapeutic approaches in the future. In this regard, our laboratory conducts ‘systems neuroscience’ research and a primary interest is to understand the role of neuropeptide signalling in the control of complex behaviours including arousal, stress, mood motivation and reward, and associated memory processes, under normal and pathophysiological conditions. We conduct experimental studies in animal models of normal physiology and psychiatric disorders, using a range of biomolecular tools including receptor-selective peptides, ‘viral-vector delivered’ designer receptors, and a range of transgenic mouse strains.
A glimpse at our researchControl of complex behaviour by neuropeptides
The Neuropeptides Division primarily conducts multi-disciplinary studies on the relaxin family of peptides/hormones and their receptors. The division focuses on determining the role of these peptides and the receptors they target a wide range of physiological and disease states. These studies are coupled with fundamental drug discovery research on both these and other peptides and their G protein-coupled receptors. The aim of this research is to develop new biological knowledge and fundamental understanding about how to best therapeutically target these peptide systems with the long term view to develop drugs which target the peptide receptors to treat vascular, fibrotic, metabolic and psychiatric diseases.
An example of the success of this approach is the completion of a Phase III trial using the hormone relaxin for the treatment of acute heart failure by the Swiss Pharmaceutical Company Novartis. A Phase IIIb trial is ongoing and the relaxin drug, serelaxin, has been approved in Russia to treat patients with acute heart failure. Hence fundamental research on the mechanism of action of a hormone, in the case of relaxin pioneered at the Florey by the former Neuropeptides Division Head, Prof Geoffrey Tregear, can ultimately lead to its use to treat disease in patients.