An amazing new discovery is bringing more attention to the fact that human life begins at the moment of fertilization.
Scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago said they witnessed for the first time what happens at the moment when a new human life begins – a burst of zinc fireworks.
The Telegraph reports the scientists released a video with their research that shows the stunning discovery. The video shows a flash of light occurring at the moment when a human sperm joins with an egg to form a unique new human life, according to the study. The flash comes from zinc that sparks as the sperm and egg meet – an observation that scientists have witnessed with the conception of other animals in the past, according to the report.
“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,” said Dr. Teresa Woodruff, a professor at Northwestern. “It was remarkable.”
The report explains more about the science behind the discovery:
The bright flash occurs because when sperm enters and egg it triggers calcium to increase which releases zinc from the egg. As the zinc shoots out, it binds to small molecules which emit a fluorescence which can be picked up my camera microscopes.
Over the last six years this team has shown that zinc controls the decision to grow and change into a completely new genetic organism.
In the experiment, scientists use sperm enzyme rather than actual sperm to show what happens at the moment of conception.
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“These fluorescence microscopy studies establish that the zinc spark occurs in human egg biology, and that can be observed outside of the cell,” said Professor Tom O’Halloran, a co-senior author.
In a companion paper published in Scientific Reports on March 18, a zinc spark is shown at the precise time a sperm enters a mouse egg.
This discovery was made by [Nan] Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern. Little is known about the events that occur at the time of fertilization, because it is difficult to capture the precise time of sperm entry.
But there is an ethically troubling side to the amazing discovery.
Scientists said the intensity of the flash appears to indicate the egg’s quality and the embryo’s future health, and the finding could help doctors choose good eggs and embryos for in vitro fertilization. Though very young, embryos used for IVF are living human beings. Pre-selecting embryos could mean some human lives will be destroyed and never given the chance to live.
Dr. Eve Feinberg, who co-authored the study, said doctors currently do not have the tools to determine the quality of a human egg for IVF.
“Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues,” Feinberg said on Northwestern’s website. “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.”
Francesca Duncan, first author of the study, said the research could lead to a better understanding about the quality of human eggs – a big unknown in reproductive medicine.
The research study was published in the newest issue of Scientific Report.