The Zinc Spark
"A stunning explosion of zinc fireworks occurs when a human egg is activated by a sperm enzyme, and the size of these “sparks” is a direct measure of the quality of the egg and its ability to develop into an embryo, according to new research from Northwestern Medicine. The discovery has potential to help doctors choose the best eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilization (IVF), the scientists said. This is the first time the zinc sparks have been documented in a human egg." - Marla Paul, Northwestern Now
Scientific Reports released a publication in 2016 by Francesca Duncan, PhD, Emily L. Que, PhD, Nan Zhang, PhD, Eve C. Feinberg, MD, Thomas V. O’Halloran, PhD, and Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, entitled “The zinc spark is an inorganic signature of human egg activation.”
Discover Magazine has listed the "Spark of Life" as #47 of the Top 100 Discoveries of 2016. Discover Magazine also noted that hte zinc spark is one of the main discoveries in IVF history in this 2016 article. The zinc spark paper is in the top 5% of all research outputs including one blog of the zinc spark that was viewed 28.9K times.
View the video of the sparks on Northwestern Now.
The article describes the prominent “zinc spark,” that occurs the moment the sperm activates the egg.
The success of this paper has led to continued investigations of the zinc spark conducted by the team at Woodruff Labs. Related papers include:
- The fertilization-induced zinc spark is a novel biomarker of mouse embryo quality and early development. Zhang N, Duncan FE, Que EL, O'Halloran TV, Woodruff TK. Scientific Reports.
- Zinc sparks induce physiochemical changes in the egg zona pellucida that prevent polyspermy. Que EL, Duncan FE, Bayer AR, Philips SJ, Roth EW, Bleher R, Gleber SC, Vogt S, Woodruff TK, O'Halloran TV. Integrative Biology.
Read the media’s enthusiastic response:
- The Telegraph (U.K.)-"Bright flash of light marks incredible moment life begins when sperm meets egg"
- FOX News-"Scientists witness 'flash of light' during conception, say discovery could aid IVF"
- U.S. News & World Report-"During Conception, Human Eggs Emit Sparks"
- UPI-"Human eggs celebrate insemination with flash of zinc fireworks"
- CBC News (Canada)- "Fertilized human egg emits microscopic flash of light"
- Metro (U.K.)-"Sexual fireworks-scientists capture 'flash' of sperm meeting egg for first time"
- Daily Mail (U.K.)-"Sparks really do fly: Scientists discover flash of light when new life is formed at the moment a sperm meets an egg"
- Belfast Telegraph-"Bedroom 'fireworks' discovery could help boost IVF process"
- Newsweek-"New Technique Shows 'Sparks" Fly At Moment Of Conception"
- IFL Science-"Scientists Just Captured Something Extraordinary At The Moment of Fertilization"
- Mic-"These Are the Actual "Fireworks"in Your Body That Happen When You Get Pregnant"
- Inquisitr-"Spark of Life: Amazing Discovery Shows Bright Flash of Light the Moment Life Begins"
- Montreal Gazette-"The 'remarkable' bright flash of light at the moment of human conception-caught on film for the first time"
- NH Voice-"Zinc Sparks from egg cells can unveil particular set of eggs can be used in IVF"