Saturday 24 February 2018

Fireworks fly at point human life begins

In vitro fertilisation (IVF). Getty Images/Science Photo Libra
In vitro fertilisation (IVF). Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

Sarah Knapton

Human life starts in a bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time after capturing the astonishing "fireworks" on film.

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception. Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time it has been shown in humans.

Not only is it an incredible spectacle, highlighting the moment a new life begins, but the size of the flash may determine the quality of the fertilised egg.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burned brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.

The discovery could help doctors pick the best fertilised eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

"It was remarkable," said Professor Teresa Woodruff, one of the study's two authors and an expert in ovarian biology. "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.

"This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilisation, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilisation. It's a way of sorting egg quality in a way we've never been able to assess before."

Around 50pc of fertilised eggs do not develop properly and experts believe that faulty genetic code could be responsible. (© The Daily Telegraph)

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