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Watch Sparks Fly As Sperm Meet Eggs to Form Life

Apr 28, 2016 01:36 PM EDT
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Life literally begins with fireworks.

Scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago confirm there's a spark of light when sperm meets an egg.

According to the article published in the website of the Northwestern University, the group activated the egg by injecting a sperm enzyme into the egg that triggers calcium to increase within the egg and zinc to be released from the egg.

"As the zinc is released from the egg, it binds to small molecule probes, which emit light in fluorescence microscopy experiments. Thus the rapid zinc release can be followed as a flash of light that appears as a spark," the article on the website reads.

Although the phenomenon has already been witnessed in mice, this marks the first time zinc sparks have been documented in a human egg. Science Alerts reported that they used new fluorescent sensor that's able to track the movements of zinc in live cells.

The researchers call it "remarkable" and "breathtaking."

But more than the spectacle, the study is seen as a great help in the field of ovarian biology. Through the discovery, doctors may be able to choose the best eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilization (IVF).

First author Francesca Duncan, who made the human zinc spark discovery said it is a conserved phenomenon which will help doctors identify a "good egg."

The researchers noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.

"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 (IVF). It's a way of sorting egg quality in a way we've never been able to assess before," Teresa Woodruff, one of the study's two senior authors and an expert in ovarian biology at Northwestern University remarks.

Telegraph notes that at present around half of fertilized eggs do not develop well and most experts workout the cases by relying on observing videos of the egg while developing and checking for genetic mutations via invasive procedure which can damage the tiny egg.

But with this discovery, detection of healthier eggs will be easier.

"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, a physician at Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) and soon to be medical director of Northwestern Medicine's Fertility and Reproductive Medicine division.

The research study was published in the newest issue of Scientific Report.

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