Autophagy is a highly regulated intracellular process involved in the turnover of most cellular constituents and in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. It is well-established that the basal autophagic activity of living cells decreases with age, thus contributing to the accumulation of damaged macromolecules during aging. Conversely, the activity of this catabolic pathway is required for lifespan extension in animal models such as Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster.
Berberine, an alkaloid derivative from Berberis vulgaris L., has been used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diarrhea and diabetes, but the underlying mechanisms for treating diabetes are not fully understood. Recent studies suggested that berberine has many beneficial biological effects, including anti-inflammation. Because type 1 diabetes is caused by T cell-mediated destruction of beta cells and severe islet inflammation, we hypothesized that berberine could ameliorate type 1 diabetes through its immune regulation properties.