Resveratrol is a natural fungicide in grapes, blueberries, peanuts, knotweed, and some pine trees. Far from a household word now, it could become one.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging have shown that an extract of resveratrol has a fountain-of-youth effect on mice. This follows upon similarly positive results when resveratrol has been given to yeast, worms, and flies. Studies involving monkeys are likely to be next. Human beings have for millennia been benefiting from resveratrol in red wine. Its healthful effect is a possible explanation for the “French paradox “: the relatively low incidence of heart disease among the French, whose diet is high in calories. Under this theory, the French get protection by regularly drinking red wine. Before resveratrol becomes the answer to the epidemic of obesity-linked diseases, scientists must show it works similarly with people.

Harvard’s David Sinclair has founded a company that is already testing the safety of its own enhanced formulation of resveratrol on human beings with diabetes.

But if monkey and human experiments indicate that high levels of resveratrol are both safe and effective in countering the effects of aging, the Nature study could herald a new age in medicine.