The most serious late complication of ageing and diabetes mellitus follow similar patterns in the dysfunction of retinal capillaries, renal tissue, and the cardiovascular system. The changes are accelerated in diabetic patients owing to hyerglycaemia and are the major cause of premature morbidity and mortality. These tissues and their optimal functioning are dependent on the integrity of their supporting framework of collagen. It is the modification of the properties by glycation that results in many of the damaging late complications. Initially glycation affects the interactions of collagen with cells and other matrix components, but the most damaging effects are caused by the formation of glucose-mediated intermolecular cross-links. These cross-links decrease the critical flexibility and permeability of the tissues and reduce turnover. In contrast to the renal and retinal tissue, the cardiovascular system also contains a significant proportion of other fibrous connective tissue protein elastin, and its properties are similarly modified by glycation. The nature of these glycation cross-links is now being unravelled and this knowledge is crucial in any attempt to inhibit these deleterious glycation reactions.