(NewsNation) — Researchers at the University of Rochester transferred a longevity gene from naked mole rats to mice, calling it a “groundbreaking endeavor.”

According to the University of Rochester, naked mole rats have long captured the attention of scientists for their lengthy lifespans and resistance to age-related diseases.

Biologists at the university introduced a specific gene responsible for enhanced cellular repair and protection into mice, which they say may be a step toward unlocking the secrets of aging and potentially extending human lifespan.

The gene is responsible for making high molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HMW-HA), improving the health of the mice and leading to an approximate 4.4% increase in median lifespan.

“It took us 10 years from the discovery of HMW-HA in the naked mole rat to showing that HMW-HA improves health in mice,” said Vera Gorbunova, the Doris Johns Cherry professor of biology and medicine at Rochester. “Our next goal is to transfer this benefit to humans.”

The researchers previously learned that HMW-HA is also one mechanism responsible for the unusual resistance naked mole rats have to cancer.

Their latest study was published in Nature.