Experiments on mice that were taken to the International Space Station have shown an internal protein has the potential to help slow the aging process, according to a joint study by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Tohoku University.

While in space, the mice went through biological changes similar to aging, only fast-forwarded, and the protein — called nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2, or Nrf2 — slowed down part of the transformation, JAXA said.

A team of scientists from the space agency and the university hope the discovery will pave the way for the development of drugs to treat a broad range of illnesses associated with old age, such as Alzheimer's and diabetes.