Effects of aging on human meibum

Igor A. Butovich, Tomo Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. The purpose of this study was to determine if aging affects meibum lipid composition in non-meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)/non-dry eye (DE) population. Aging has been repeatedly linked to pathological changes in various tissues and organs, including the onset of MGD and DE, in a number of clinical and population-wide surveys. Both conditions have been associated with abnormal meibum secretion and composition, among other factors. However, the chemical basis for such a connection has not been established yet. METHODS. To identify and characterize possible changes in the meibum and meibogenesis with aging, lipidomic analyses of meibum samples collected from human subjects of two age groups – young (29 ± 5 years, n = 21) and elderly (68 ± 7 years, n = 29) – with similar male to female ratios in each group were conducted. Intact lipid species from major lipid groups of meibum (such as wax esters, cholesteryl esters, free cholesterol, triacylglycerols, etc.) were compared using lipidome-wide untargeted (such as Principal Component Analysis) and targeted (such as Orthogonal Projections to Latent Structures Discriminant Analysis) approaches, along with focused analyses of specific lipid species in liquid-chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS-MS) experiments. RESULTS. Extremely high similarities of meibum lipids in the two age groups were observed, with only minor changes in the individual lipid species. The magnitude of the intergroup variability for tested lipid species was comparable to the intragroup variability for the same meibum components. No statistically significant differences in the lipid esterification, elongation, and unsaturation patterns were observed. CONCLUSIONS. Chronological aging itself seems to have only minor effect on meibogenesis in healthy, non-MGD/non-DE subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Aging
  • Chromatography
  • Lipidomics
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Meibomian glands
  • Meibum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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