JUL 18, 2016 12:40 PM PDT

Scientists Capture Real Sparks at the Moment of Conception

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

It may seem like sparks (the literal and figurative kind) only happen in the movies. But as it turns out, sparks are a real human phenomenon that science has only documented recently. And the flash of light marks one of the most momentous events in human biology: when a sperm meets an egg to conceive a baby!

Scientists at Northwestern University captured, for the first time, the ‘fireworks' display when a sperm fertilizes a human egg. The phenomenon is dubbed a "Zinc spark," and results from the surge of zinc that gets released from the egg once a sperm enters. Using fluorescent markers, the scientists were able to show exactly what happens at the moment of conception.

That fertilization can be visualized so clearly can be an extremely powerful tool in assisted reproductive technology. For example, people who undergo in vitro fertilization may have a higher chance of success if doctors are able to first screen, using the zinc spark test, and select only eggs that have been successfully fertilized for implantation. Overall, the zinc signal provides a non-invasive and reliable way to assess the health of the egg and the subsequent embryo.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JAN 13, 2021
Plants & Animals
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
JAN 13, 2021
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
The name “dwarf giraffe” certainly seems like an oxymoron, which is why scientists were shocked to observe t ...
MAY 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Climate Models Overestimate Role of Greenhouse Gases in Global Warming, Says New Study
MAY 29, 2021
Climate Models Overestimate Role of Greenhouse Gases in Global Warming, Says New Study
Researchers have that there was four times more soot in the pre-industrial Southern Hemisphere's atmosphere than pre ...
JUN 04, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists Identify 90 Drugs that Could be Repurposed to Fight COVID-19
JUN 04, 2021
Scientists Identify 90 Drugs that Could be Repurposed to Fight COVID-19
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in California have identified 90 drugs that could be repurposed for trea ...
JUN 05, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Washington State University Opens Cannabis Research Center
JUN 05, 2021
Washington State University Opens Cannabis Research Center
Washington State University (WSU) has announced the opening of a multi-disciplinary research center with nearly 100 scie ...
JUL 05, 2021
Plants & Animals
Why Are Some Fish Warm-Blooded? A Need for Speed
JUL 05, 2021
Why Are Some Fish Warm-Blooded? A Need for Speed
Great white sharks are warm-blooded, and new research helps explain why.
JUL 23, 2021
Neuroscience
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
JUL 23, 2021
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
Researchers from Imperial College London have written an overview of currently available commercial brain-computer inter ...
Loading Comments...