Memory loss is one of the characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which can greatly affect a patient’s quality of life.

While improving memory or restoring cognitive function is a challenge for researchers, a new study has found that a prescription multiple sclerosis (MS) drug improved memory in mice with Alzheimer’s disease, according to Science Daily.

The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, was conducted by the researchers of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester.

The drug, called glatiramer acetate, is currently used to treat patients with MS. Sold under the brand name Copaxone among others, it is an immunomodulatory drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved glatiramer acetate to reduce the frequency of relapses, but not for reducing the progression of disability.

Senior author of the study Dr. M. Kerry O’Banion said, “This research extends our information about glatiramer acetate’s potential use in Alzheimer’s disease. This isn’t a cure, but it could be a step in the right direction for a treatment to slow the symptoms of this debilitating disease.”

The researchers found that the drug initiated changes in microglia – a type of neuroglia (glial cell) located throughout the brain and spinal cord – and improvements in cognitive behavior.

These changes were associated with less amyloid plaques and modifications to tau – a protein found in neurodegenerative diseases – in the brain, especially found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous animal studies have found that glatiramer acetate can alter brain pathology in Alzheimer’s disease; however, the exact mechanism is still unknown.

The study’s co-first author Dr. DawlingDionisio-Santos said, “Overall, these findings provide further evidence that therapies that modify the immune system could be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It adds evidence to support trials that test the use of glatiramer acetate in patients at risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” he added.