Keio University and Washington University in St. Louis plan to begin a joint clinical study in Japan to test the safety and effectiveness in humans of a compound that is gradually being proved to retard the aging process in animals, scientists have said.

Keio University’s Research Ethics Committee will check the appropriateness of the plan and other factors. If approved, researchers plan to begin giving the compound – nicotinamide mononucleotide, or NMN – to about 10 healthy people to confirm its safety. They will then examine whether NMN can improve functions of the human body.

The clinical study is scheduled to begin as early as this month.

A research group including Prof. Shinichiro Imai of Washington University, a gerontology expert, has found that NMN activates a gene called sirtuin, which is known for its anti-aging effects. An experiment giving NMN to mice found that the compound can reverse age-linked declines in metabolism and eyesight.

The study is planned to be conducted by researchers including Imai and Keio University, using NMN produced by a Japanese maker. The central government has decided to provide full-fledged support for anti-aging studies from next fiscal year, and is also paying attention to this clinical study.

“We’ve confirmed a remarkable effect in the experiment using mice, but it’s not clear yet how much [the compound] will affect humans,” Imai said. “We’ll carefully conduct the study, which I hope will result in important findings originating in Japan.”