Light is essential, especially for babies and children. After all, natural light is the source of vitamin D and light in general promotes vision development. Although it is common for newborn babies to be exposed to safe morning sun, a new study has found that light is also important for a fetus in its mother’s womb.

Published in the journal Nature and posted at, researchers from Cincinnati's Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) conducted a series of laboratory tests to see the effects of both the presence and absence of light to eye development.

Scientists found that photons of light trigger a protein called melanopsin inside the fetus. This aids in the formation of healthy blood vessels and retinal neuron development in the eye. The light response pathway that occurs during pregnancy is important for the development of melanopsin. This pathway also seizes the unchecked formation of blood vessels in the eye, as overproduction can cause too much pressure and result in abnormalities.

"This fundamentally changes our understanding of how the retina develops. We have identified a light-response pathway that controls the number of retinal neurons. This has downstream effects on developing vasculature in the eye and is important because several major eye diseases are vascular diseases," concludes co-author Richard Lang, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

So for expectant women, it’s best to bathe in your daily dose of healthy morning sunlight, as this will not only keep the production of vitamin D going but will also promote good eye development in your little one.

(Photo by Barry Skeates via Flickr Creative Commons)

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