Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Bright Eyes
22 January 2013

Bright Eyes

A growing foetus is sheltered from the outside world, but external conditions may still affect it. Only a tiny amount of light manages to get inside the womb, but new evidence suggests this may be essential to ensure eyes develop correctly. Inside each growing eye, a cup-shaped network of blood vessels forms to supply the early retina with oxygen and nutrients. After birth these vessels are no longer needed, so they slowly break down. The left-hand image shows the pattern of vessels (stained blue) in the eye of a healthy eight-day-old mouse. In genetically engineered mice that lack the light-absorbing protein melanopsin (right-hand image) the vessels fail to break down normally post-birth, persisting as a dense, tangled mess. Exactly the same thing happens if a foetus grows in total darkness. This discovery may help to explain certain eye abnormalities, although the influence of light during human pregnancy is still unknown.

Written by Emma Stoye

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More