Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Mayo Clinic researchers have identified an enzyme that could play a key role in the aging process.

The researchers say the enzyme, called CD38, causes a decline in a compound known as NAD that is associated with age-related and metabolic decline. The results of their work appear in the latest edition of Cell Metabolism.

“As we age, we experience a decline in our metabolism and metabolic function. This increases the incidence of age-related metabolic diseases like obesity, diabetes and others,” says Eduardo Chini, M.D., Ph.D., anesthesiologist and researcher for Mayo Clinic’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and lead author of the study. “Previous studies have shown that levels of NAD decline during the aging process in several organisms. This decrease in NAD appears to be, at least in part, responsible for age-related metabolic decline.”

It’s hoped that further research will develop compounds that can inhibit the enzyme and increase NAD levels during aging, with the hope that it would help in the development of therapies for age-related metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Mayo Clinic researchers are also reporting the development of an accurate and effective way to measure a biomarker for aging. The circulating factor called GDF11 is associated with signs of advanced biological age, which includes chronic disease, reality and higher surgical risks for patients with cardiovascular disease.