Berberine: An old drug but new use for liver diseases
Berberine (BBR) is naturally occurring alkaloid from many plants. It is firstly isolated and identified as a plant isoquinoline alkaloid in the early nineteenth century. BBR has been used in modern medicine with multiple pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammation, anti-hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia as well as anticancer effects. It is an over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea in China. Recent Clinical studies have shown that BBR causes significant reduction of blood glucose, cholesterol as well as triglyceride in patients with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia with no side-effect on liver and muscle. It was reported that BBR has preventive effect, but not curative effect in liver damage models. To clarify this issue, we tested the effect of BBR on CCl4-induced liver damage models or liver cancer in animal and cell models. The results showed that BBR possesses liver protective effect which has not only preventive, but also curative effects in rats with CCl4-induced acute and chronic liver injury. The liver protective effect is associated with anti-oxidative effect and anti-apoptotic effect. Using liver cancer cell and mice models, we found that BBR has anti-liver cancer effect in cancer cell lines and cancer cell graft mice by machineries of cell death, anti-cell migration and anti-angiogenesis. These results suggested that BBR could be used as a potential new drug for liver injury and liver cancer. This study was financially supported by grants from the research council of the University of Hong Kong (Project Code: 201111159223) and The Research Grant Committee (RGC) of Hong Kong (Project Code: 10500362).