Some researchers have begun to think of Alzheimer's disease like Type 3 Diabetes, finding that eating a large amount of junk food can help increase the likelihood of dementia. However, that link may prove to be beneficial in finding treatment for the cognitive disease. Researchers from the University of Texas have found that treating mice with a drug commonly used to fight diabetes has helped to improve memory.

The drug is called rosiglitazone, which was approved by the United States' Food and Drug Administration to fight insulin resistance in people with diabetes. Researchers administered the drug to genetically engineered mice who served as human models for the disease. They found that the use of the drug enhanced learning and memory, as well as lowering insulin resistance in mice.

Researchers believe that the drug works by targeting extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK), which becomes hyperactive in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease and mice that are at a stage in the disease that corresponds to mild cognitive impairment from Alzheimer's. The brain signaling molecule is important, but Alzheimer's disease wreaks havoc on it. Because it has too much activity, the synapses between neurons transmit information incorrectly, and the ability to learn and remember things is impaired.

The drug rosiglitazone brings the activity of the molecule ERK into line by activating a certain pathway to the brain called the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma pathway.

"It gives us an opportunity to test several FDA-approved drugs to normalize insulin resistance in Alzheimer's patients and possibly also enhance memory, and it also gives us a remarkable tool to use in animal models to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cognitive issues in Alzheimer's," Larry Denner, the study's lead author, said in a statement.

The study was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.