Researchers Uncover a Mystery At Moment of Conception, Giving New Hope to Infertile Couples

[DIGEST: The Telegraph, Waking Science, Daily MailNorthwestern University]

Scientists have noted an explosion of light when a human egg is fertilized. The size of the sparks relates directly to the health of the egg and its chances of developing into an embryo.


The spark is the result of zinc being released from the egg, which is triggered when sperm meets the egg, causing an increase in calcium. As the zinc escapes, it binds to molecule probes, which emit light.

Credit: Source.

While previous studies have marked this in other animals, this study, published in late April in Scientific Reports, is the first time that scientists have observed this in humans. (The study used sperm enzyme rather than sperm, as fertilizing eggs with actual sperm for human research is prohibited under federal law.)

“These fluorescence microscopy studies establish that the zinc spark occurs in human egg biology, and can be observed outside of the cell,” said Tom O’Halloran, one of the senior co-authors of the study, and a professor of chemistry at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.

“It was remarkable,” said Teresa Woodruff, one of the study’s two senior authors and an expert in ovarian biology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “We discovered the zinc spark just five years ago in the mouse, and to see the zinc radiate out in a burst from each human egg was breathtaking.”

The flash illuminates the moment that sperm enzyme enters the egg. Credit: Source.

The researchers further noticed that some of the eggs burned brighter than others. The ones that burned the brightest were more likely to produce a healthy embryo. Doctors may

be able to use this information in choosing which eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilization.

“This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization,” explained Woodruff. “It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way we’ve never been able to assess before.”

Currently, about half of fertilized eggs do not develop properly, often as a result of faulty genetic code. To determine whether fertilized eggs are sound, many IVF clinics test for genetic mutations. The process of testing for mutations is invasive, however, and can damage the egg.

Credit: Source.

“This is an important discovery because it may give us a non-invasive and easily visible way to assess the health of an egg and eventually an embryo before implantation,” said co-author Dr. Eve Feinberg, who collaborated with the research team.

“That’s the reason this is so transformative,” Feinberg continued. “If we have the ability up front to see what is a good egg and what’s not, it will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache, and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”

Watch the video here:

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It took a global pandemic and a national health crisis for the White House to temporarily restore daily press briefings after more than a year.

The purpose of the briefings is to update the public on the virus's spread and which potentially lifesaving measures are necessary for Americans to take in order to keep themselves and their families safe.

Keep reading... Show less
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Samuel Corum/Getty Images

With Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) officially suspending his campaign on Wednesday, all signs are pointing to a showdown between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in November.

The pair's differing stances on how to curb the global pandemic that's resulted in a national health crisis in the United States are already highlighting just how much more effective—and levelheaded—a Biden presidency would be.

Keep reading... Show less
Walter McBride/Getty Images // Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's hatred of the late Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, was widely known even before McCain cast the decisive vote that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

That hatred has only worsened since that vote, with Trump initially refusing to lower flags at half staff to honor him and even implying that McCain is in Hell.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pastor and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. came under fire late last month when he ordered faculty to return to the university and gave students the option to return, despite the mounting health crisis in the United States.

Surely enough, it wasn't long before students began falling ill.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway may be one of President Donald Trump's most vocal defenders, but her husband—Republican lawyer George Conway—is decidedly not.

After months of speaking out against Trump on Twitter, Conway and three other prominent Republican strategists formed Project Lincoln late last year.

Keep reading... Show less
@nowthisnews/Twitter

The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for providing guidance regarding international public health, so people around the world are looking to the WHO during this global pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less