A ‘Flash of Light’ in a Human Egg Is Reigniting Explosive Debate Over When Life Starts

Researchers have filmed the lightshow that occurs when a human egg meets sperm- and some people are even calling it the spark of life.

For the first time, zinc sparks have been witnessed in a human egg—the size of the spark an indicator of the quality of the egg and its ability to develop into an embryo.

It’s a discovery that can potentially help doctors to choose the best eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Researcher Teresa Woodruff, from the Northwestern University team who made the discovery, explained in a recent Ted talk:

“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.”
Zinc released from the egg when ready for fertilization binds to small molecule probes, which emit light in fluorescence microscopy experiments. The rapid zinc release can be seen as a flash of light that appears as a “spark.”


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