Scientists have captured the moment a human sperm meets an egg on film, and found the union is a “fireworks” show that produces a blast of white light.
The phenomenon was discovered about five years ago in a mouse, but it’s never before been seen in humans.
Specifically, scientists noted that at the exact moment of conception, an explosion of fiery sparks is emitted. And what’s more, researchers found different sizes of light and said the size can actually reveal the quality of the egg that’s being fertilized, the Telegraph reported.
In short, researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago said the brighter the fireworks, the healthier the egg. And the practical benefit of that finding is that it enables medical officials to identify the best fertilized eggs for in-vitro fertilization procedures.
Scientists attribute the flash to a trigger release of calcium that occurs when the sperm enters the egg, and that deposit causes an expulsion of zinc. As the zinc pours forth, it carries with it small molecules that give off a fluorescent light.
“It was remarkable,” said Teresa Woodruff, one of the researchers who wrote up their findings, the Telegraph reported. “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. 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.”
Roughly 50 percent of fertilized eggs don’t develop properly, due it’s believed to faulty genetic coding, the Telegraph reported. Clinics currently can check for genetic mutations via some invasive procedures, but the procedures alone could damage the egg.
Now, the new findings could help with such determinations, minus the risky invasiveness.
“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 Eve Feinberg, another doctor involved in the study, the Telegraph reported. There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg. Often we don’t know … until we see if a pregnancy ensues. That’s the reason this is so transformative. 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.”
The findings could also go toward underscoring what the pro-life movement has insisted for years – that life starts at conception, rather than birth.
“It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way that we’ve never been able to assess before,” said Woodruff. “All of biology starts at the time of fertilization, yet we know next to nothing about the events that occur in the human.”