In a study published in Scientific Reports in 2016, Northwestern researchers discovered that zinc sparks are generated when sperm enzymes activate the human egg. The size of the eruption is directly related to the health of the egg and its ability to develop into a viable embryo.
Scientists have discovered that a “breathtaking” flash of light occurs at the moment of conception.
For the first time, researchers from Northwestern University have now demonstrated that when a human sperm first meets an egg a bright zinc spark can be seen, not only a “remarkable” phenomenon but also one that might be a game-changer for in vitro fertilization.
“It was remarkable,” said the study’s co-author Professor Teresa Woodruff. “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. All of biology starts at the time of fertilization, yet we know next to nothing about the events that occur in the human.”
The researchers say that the size of the flash of light provides valuable information about the health of the eggs. The brighter the flash, the more viable the egg, and thus the better option for in vitro fertilization, which has a high failure rate (around 50%) and often involves clinicians using imprecise means of testing or simply choosing whichever eggs they think appear to be most viable.
Read Northwestern’s full report on the study here.