There is an unmet need for effective pharmacological therapies for constipation, a symptom that significantly deteriorates patients' quality of life and impacts health care. Ghrelin is an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor and has been shown to exert prokinetic effects on gastrointestinal (GI) motility via the vagus and pelvic nerves. The pharmacological potential of ghrelin is hampered by its short half-life. Ghrelin receptor (GRLN-R) agonists with enhanced pharmacokinetics were thus developed. Centrally penetrant GRLN-R agonists stimulate defecation and improve impaired lower GI transit in animals and humans. This review summarizes the current knowledge on relamorelin, a potent ghrelin mimetic, and other GRLN-R analogs which are in preclinical or clinical stages of development for the management of disorders with underlying GI hypomotility, like constipation.
Keywords: Constipation; Gastrointestinal motility; Ghrelin; Receptors, ghrelin; Relamorelin.