Heritability of retinal drusen in the Copenhagen Twin Cohort Eye Study

Mohamed Belmouhand*, Simon Paul Rothenbuehler, Jacob B Hjelmborg, Sami Dabbah, Jakob Bjerager, Birgit Agnes Sander, Christine Dalgård, Michael Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: To study age- and sex-adjusted heritability of small hard drusen and early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a population-based twin cohort.

METHODS: This was a single-centre, cross-sectional, classical twin study with ophthalmic examination including refraction, biometry, best-corrected visual acuity assessment, colour and autofluorescence fundus photography, and fundus optical coherence tomography. Grading and categorization of drusen was by diameter and location.

RESULTS: The study enrolled 176 same-sex pairs of twins of mean (SD) age 58.6 (9.9) years. The prevalence of the four phenotypes ≥20 small hard macular drusen (largest diameter < 63 μm), ≥20 small hard extramacular drusen, intermediate drusen (63-125 μm) anywhere, and large drusen (>125 μm) anywhere was 12.4%, 36.4%, 5.8%, and 8.4%, respectively, and the respective heritabilities, adjusted for age and sex, were 78.2% [73.5-82.9], 69.1% [62.3-75.9], 30.1% [4.1-56.1], and 65.6% [26.4-100]. Age trajectory analysis supported a gradual transition to larger numbers of small hard drusen with increasing age. The heritability of ≥20 small hard drusen was markedly lower than the 99% found in the 40% overlapping twin cohort that was seen 20 years earlier.

CONCLUSION: Numerous (≥20) small hard drusen and larger drusen that fit the definition of dry AMD were highly heritable. Small hard drusen counts increased with age. Decreasing heritability with increasing age suggests that the impact of behavioural and environmental factors on the development of small hard drusen increases with age.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Ophthalmologica
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)e1561-e1568
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Copenhagen Twin Cohort Eye Study
  • drusen
  • heritability
  • small hard drusen
  • twins


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