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Age-related changes of human conjunctiva on in vivo confocal microscopy
  1. Wenqing Zhu,
  2. Jiaxu Hong,
  3. Tianyu Zheng,
  4. Qihua Le,
  5. Jianjiang Xu,
  6. Xinghuai Sun
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Eye & Ear, Nose Throat Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, PR China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jianjiang Xu, No 83, Fenyang Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200031, PR China; xu_heihei{at}


Aims To analyse age-related changes of human conjunctiva by in vivo laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM).

Methods 80 healthy subjects were enrolled and divided into four groups according to age: A (0–19 years), B (20–39 years), C (40–59 years) and D (over 60 years). In vivo LSCM was performed on the subjects' bulbar conjunctivas, and the images were recorded. The morphology and densities of conjunctival epithelial cells, goblet cells (GCs), dendritic cells (DCs) and the positive rate of conjunctival microcysts were analysed. The diameters of subepithelial fibres in each group were measured as well.

Results The morphology and the densities of both conjunctival epithelial cells and GCs showed no significant age-related differences. The positive rates of conjunctival microcysts were 30% (6/20), 50% (10/20), 60% (12/20) and 75% (15/20) in each group, showing a substantial increase with age (p=0.035). The densities of DCs decreased significantly with ageing (p=0.033). The diameters of subepithelial fibres reduced with age significantly also (p=0.000).

Conclusions The age-related changes of conjunctivas included decreasing densities of DCs as well as the degeneration of subepithelial structures. Even though no significant changes in GCs densities could be seen in the different age groups, the increasing rates of conjunctival microcysts indicated that the cellular function of GCs declined while ageing.

  • Confocal microscopy
  • conjunctiva
  • goblet cells
  • dendritic cells
  • epithelial cells
  • physiology
  • degeneration
  • imaging

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  • Funding This work was supported by grants from the Key Clinic Medicine Research Program, the Ministry of Health, China (2007-2009); the Science and Technology Development Fund, Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Pudong New Area Municipality, PR China (No PKJ2007-Y13); Joint Key Project of New Frontier Technology in Shanghai Municipal Hospitals, Shanghai, PR China (No SHDCI2007104); Shanghai Excellent Leading Scholars Program, Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality, Shanghai (10XD1401100); Outstanding Doctoral Research Program by Fudan University (2009-2011).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Ethics Committee of Eye & Ear, Nose Throat Hospital of Fudan University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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