Zinc Sparks

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: