Micrometric Control of the Optics of the Human Eye: Environment or Genes?

Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Juan Tabernero, Lucia Hervella, Antonio Benito, Lucía Colodro-Conde, Juan R. Ordoñana, Marcos Ruiz-Sánchez, Jose M. Marín, Pablo Artal

Purpose: The human eye has typically more optical aberrations than conventional artificial optical systems. While the lower order modes (defocus and astigmatism) are well studied, our purpose is to explore the influence of genes versus the environment on the higher order aberrations of the optical components of the eye.
Methods: We have performed a classical twin study in a sample from the Region of Murcia (Spain). Optical aberrations using a Hartmann-Shack sensor (AOnEye Voptica SL, Murcia, Spain) and corneal aberrations (using corneal topography data) were measured in 138 eyes corresponding to 69 twins; 36 monozygotic (MZ) and 33 dizygotic (DZ) pairs (age 55 years, SD 7 years). Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were used to estimate how strongly aberrations of twins resemble each other, and genetic models were fitted to quantify heritability in the selected phenotypes.
Results: Genes had a significant influence in the variance of most of the higher order aberration terms (heritability from 40% to 70%). This genetic influence was observed similarly in both cornea and complete eye aberrations. Additionally, the compensation factor of spherical aberration in the eye (i.e., how much corneal spherical aberration was compensated by internal spherical aberration) was found under genetic influence (heritability of 68%).
Conclusions: There is a significant genetic contribution to the variance of aberrations of the eye, not only at macroscopic levels, as in myopia or astigmatism, but also at microscopic levels, where a few micrometers changes in surface topography can produce a large difference in the value of the optical aberrations.