Photo/IllutrationThe mouse on the right was given the eNAMPT enzyme, and it became more active with a shinier coat than the mouse of the same age on the left. (Provided by Shinichiro Imai, professor at Washington University)

A team of scientists experimenting on an enzyme not only extended the lifespan of mice but also reversed the aging process in terms of physical abilities, according to their research paper.

The good news is that humans also have this enzyme, called extracellular nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (eNAMPT).

The eNAMPT enzyme produces nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is known to decline significantly with age in mice and humans. The aging process also causes a deterioration in the functions of internal organs and tissue, which can lead to chronic diseases.

“The function of eNAMPT has the potential to become a method of anti-aging,” said Shinichiro Imai, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who is part of the research team.

The team, which also included researchers from the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Osaka, studied the circulating levels of eNAMPT in the blood of mice aged 6 and 18 months.

The levels of eNAMPT decreased in 30 percent of male mice and 70 percent of female mice, according to the team’s research paper published in the online version of U.S. specialist journal Cell Metabolism on June 14.

Old mice with higher levels of eNAMPT in their blood tended to live longer than their more enzyme-depleted counterparts, the study found.

When the team genetically manipulated the mice to maintain the levels of eNAMPT, the old mice behaved like mice one year younger in their physical activities.

That would be the equivalent of humans in their 50s with the physical abilities of those in their 20s, according to the team.

The manipulated mice also maintained high levels in terms of sleeping quality, learning ability, memory skills and retina cellular functions.

The research team then extracted elements containing eNAMPT from young mice aged 4 to 6 months.

After the team supplemented the extracted eNAMPT in female mice that were 26 months old over a three-month period, the mice’s longevity was extended by 16 percent. They also became more active and their coats appeared healthier.