It seems the human body produces its own “Fountain of Youth” and it goes by the name of eNAMPT.

Scientists have found eNAMPT, an enzyme that might have anti-aging properties in humans as it does in mice. Exciting new research in mice uncovered this previously unknown "pathway toward healthy aging” that might one day hold the same promise for human beings, according to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

In experiments on mice, the administration of eNAMPT led to a lifespan increase of 16 percent, said Dr. Shinichiro Imai, Ph.D., a professor of developmental biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri and senior author of the study.

"We were surprised by the dramatic differences between the old mice that received the eNAMPT of young mice and old mice that received saline as a control," Imai added.

"These are old mice with no special genetic modifications, and when supplemented with eNAMPT, their wheel-running behavior, sleep patterns and physical appearance -- thicker, shinier fur, for example -- resemble that of young mice."

Overall, administering eNAMPT to older mice led to a lifespan increase of 16 percent, said the study. Imai noted that they might have found a totally new pathway that could promote healthy aging.

"That we can take eNAMPT from the blood of young mice and give it to older mice and see that the older mice show marked improvements in health -- including increased physical activity and better sleep -- is remarkable," he said.

The subject of Imai’s admiration, eNAMPT is produced by the hypothalamus or the brain region responsible for regulating metabolic processes such as temperature, thirst, hunger and sleep-wake cycles.

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) plays key roles in metabolism, DNA repair, and overall aging and longevity. As a person gets older, however, aging cells find it harder to produce energy and NAD. And this is where the enzyme called eNAMPT comes in.

Research by Imai’s team found that taking eNAMPT from the blood of younger mice and giving it to older mice boosts NAD levels and staves off aging. Imai said their work and those of others suggest NAD governs how long we live and how healthy we remain as we age.

“Since we know that NAD inevitably declines with age, whether in worms, fruit flies, mice, or people, many researchers are interested in finding antiaging interventions that might maintain NAD levels as we get older,” Imai stated in his study.

Researchers said future studies should examine if eNAMPT levels correlate with aging-related diseases or lifespan in humans.

"We could predict, with surprising accuracy, how long mice would live based on their levels of circulating eNAMPT," Imai noted. "We don't know yet if this association is present in people, but it does suggest that eNAMPT levels should be studied further to see if it could be used as a potential biomarker of aging."