A fountain of youth drug is within reach, scientists have revealed, after a series of successful trials in mice.
They claim a pill that extends life and keeps old bodies youthful is no longer 'far-fetched' and anti-aging medicines are on their way.
They made the tantalizing prediction after they extended the life of mice by as much as 35% and delayed the onset of cancer, heart and kidney damage and even cataracts.
What is more, the creatures were more active and inquisitive in old age and even looked healthier, the journal Nature reports.
The remarkable effects were achieved by giving the creatures a drug that cleared away old and worn out cells.
Known as senescent cells, they no longer divide and multiply, making the new cells needed to help keep the body and its organs young.
Instead, they pump out chemicals and hormones that damage neighbouring cells and while the immune system regularly clears them out, it is thought it finds this harder to do as we age.
The researchers from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, used a drug to kill off the senescent cells in lab mice.
The drug was injected fortnightly from when they were 12 months old, or middle-aged in mouse terms.
The benefits were dramatic and remarkably, there weren't any side-effects.
Both males and females benefited, as did mice from different strains and creatures on different diets.
Researcher Darren Baker said it shouldn't be necessary to eliminate all senescent cells for people to feel the benefits.
He said: 'Senescent cells that accumulate with aging are largely bad, do bad things to your organs and tissues and therefore shorten your life and also the healthy phase of your life.
'The advantage of targeting senescent cells is that clearance of just 60 to 70% can have significant therapeutic effects.
'A drug could quickly eliminate enough of them to have profound effects on healthspan and lifespan.'
The drug he used wouldn't be suitable for people because the mice had to be genetically modified for it work.
However, other medicines are within reach.
Dr Baker said: 'There are a variety of groups specifically looking for compounds that can selectively eliminate these senescent cells, so it is not a far-fetched idea to think that these things are coming through the pipeline.'
In an accompanying commentary piece, British experts in the biology of aging cautioned that senescent cells have important functions, including helping with wound healing and protecting against cancer. They also pointed out that removing senescent cells didn't ease all the ills of old age.
For instance, the treatment didn't affect memory or muscle strength. But, despite this, the approach holds promise.
Professor Dominic Withers, of Imperial College London, commented: 'The ability to fight the aging process has been a long-held human desire.
'Although this quest often seems to be driven by vanity, aging is the major risk factor for many of the disease that plague modern society.
'A search for compounds that can selectively eliminate senescent cells is underway and could be an important step in translating the findings to combating diseases of aging in humans.'
Professor Withers said the research suggests senescence is one of the root causes of aging.
He said: 'It is a pretty important study. Of course, it's a mouse study but there is evidence that senescence occurs in humans.'