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.
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 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
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