Scientists are hoping to trial an anti-ageing chemical on humans next year following a key breakthrough in their experimentation on mice.
Researchers from the US and Australia said they found a way of reversing the ageing process in muscles by improving communication between cells.
The study, published in the journal Cell, said the process could also pave the way for new treatments for other age-related diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
The work was described as an "exciting finding".
The research focuses on a chemical called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, which naturally reduces in the body as we get older.
The ageing process occurs when communication between an area of the cell known as mitochondria, which produces energy, gradually stops communicating with the cell's nucleus.
The study found that by injecting the NAD compound, the ageing process was reversed in the mice, although muscle strength did not improve.
UNSW professor David Sinclair, based at Harvard Medical School, said: "The ageing process we discovered is like a married couple – when they are young, they communicate well.
"But over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down.
"And just like a couple, restoring communication solved the problem."
Scientists compared the treatment to changing the muscle of a 60-year-old to that of a 20-year-old.
Dr Nigel Turner, senior research fellow at UNSW and co-author of the study, told the Guardian: "Now that we understand the pathway, we can look at other ways to restore the communication and reverse the ageing process.
"People think anti-ageing research is about us wanting to make people live until they are 200, but the goal is really to help people be healthy longer into old age.
"We know that this cell communication breaks down in diseases such as dementia, cancer and type-two diabetes. This research focused on muscles, but it could benefit multiple organs and delay and prevent a lot of these diseases occurring.
However, Dr Ali Tavassoli, from the University of Southampton argued: "It is important to note, that they did not see any changes in the mouse itself.
"This could be for one of two reasons. Either they need to treat for longer so that the changes occurring in the cells have time to affect the whole organism, or alternatively, the biochemical changes by themselves are not sufficient to reverse the physical changes associated with ageing in the mouse.
"More experiments are necessary to see which of these cases are true."