The blue-green autofluorescence of the ocular lens increases with age, glycemia and smoking, as the irreplaceable structural proteins of the lens slowly accumulate damage from the encounter with reactive molecular species. We have conducted a prospective study of lens autofluorescence over two decades in a twin cohort. The study included 131 phakic, non-diabetic adult twins (median age at follow-up 58 years, range 41–66 years) who were examined twice at an interval of 21 years. Change in anterior lens peak autofluorescence was analyzed in relation to age, current and baseline glycemia, cumulative smoking and heritability. The level of lens autofluorescence in the study population increased as a function of age and smoking (p ≤.002), but not as a function of glycemia (p ≥.069). Lens autofluorescence remained a highly heritable trait (90.6% at baseline and 93.3% at follow-up), but whereas the combined effect of age and cumulative smoking explained 57.2% of the variance in lens autofluorescence at baseline in mid-life, it only accounted for 31.6% at followup 21 years later. From mid to late adulthood, the level of blue-green fluorescence remained overwhelmingly heritable, but became less predictable from age, smoking habits and glycemic status. Presumably, as the lens ages, its intrinsic characteristics come to dominate over environmental and systemic factors, perhaps in a prelude to the development of cataract.
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