The insemination of a sperm and an ovum makes sparks of light just like fireworks.

Can we literally say that “life is light,” or “light is life?” These words are often used as metaphors when someone says “you’re the light of my world” — how cute — or, what’s meant by saying “put someone’s light out.” Poetically, light is often associated with life, and that poetic thought have some literal sense of meaning, too. When a sperm and egg inseminate, there is a real flash of light — literally sparking into life.

This Baby Is On Fire

This is not just a fancy guessing or metaphoric assertion that we’re writing about. It’s a 2011 research project conducted by the Northwestern University. Researchers made this amazing discovery when they saw what they call “zinc sparks” at the point of conception in mice. Later on in 2014, they figured out a way to capture microscopic images of the event taking place; and again in 2017, they finally achieved the Holy Grail of biological research: The researchers observed the same thing — zinc sparks of light — also occurring in human egg cells, too.

Egg cells depend on zinc for their important functions — maturing into an egg in the first place and later embryonic development. The research conducted in 2014 showed results that a human ovum is made up of about 8,000 or more zinc packets, of which each packet contains millions of zinc atoms. During insemination — involving the experiments demonstrated in human ova, all that is needed is a sperm enzyme — which helps release a flurry of zinc atoms all at once.

Oh Baby, You’re A Firework

Image: Northwestern University | Researchers’ discovery of “zinc sparks” at the point of conception

The researchers with the aid of a high fluorescent sensor, where able to observe how this flurry release of zinc atoms happen under a microscope. It looked like a microscopic fireworks show, studded with explosion after tiny explosion. This amazing yet microscopic spectacle was able to last for up to two hours after conception. Thinking about this sounds like you had a pyrotechnic celebration upon your very first day of life. You’re really amazing, remember that.

This amazing firework, lightning or whatever in the tiny name of microscopic science isn’t just cool; it’s incredibly important as well. The size of these explosions tell scientists a lot about the viability of the embryo the egg will produce. For instance, people hoping to go through the expensive yet emotionally depressing process of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), that’s a really big deal, since at any moment of the process the insemination specialist could certify for sure if the insemination was a successful one. Currently, less than half of IVF treatments result in a live birth.

Light Up My Life

“There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg,” said co-author Dr. Eve Feinberg, … in a statement. “Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable 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.”

If that doesn’t light up your life, we don’t know what else will.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Jan 19, 2019.


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