Think zinc


What makes one egg a better candidate for fertilization than another? New research points toward zinc as the answer and ultimately may help fertility doctors choose the best eggs for implantation.

“Understanding zinc’s role may eventually help us measure the quality of an egg and lead to advances in fertility treatment,” said Alison Kim, a postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Currently we can’t predict which eggs isolated from a woman produce the best embryos and will result in a baby. Not all eggs are capable of becoming healthy embryos.”

Northwestern University scientists discovered that eggs from mice require a 50% increase in zinc prior to reaching full maturity. The flood of zinc appears to push the egg can through the final stages of meiosis. Meiosis is an essential part of reproduction whereby the egg retains a single copy of the mother’s chromosomes enabling it to be fertilized by a sperm and become an embryo.

“Zinc helps the egg exit from a holding pattern to its final critical stage of development” said Tom O’Halloran, co-author and professor of chemistry at Northwestern. “It’s on the knife’s edge of becoming a new life form or becoming a cell that dies. It on has 24 hours. Zinc seems to be a key switch that helps control whether the egg moves forward in its development stage.”

Kim found that there were about 60 billion zinc atoms in a mouse egg prior to fertilization. There is no link yet to zinc content in the eggs of women or whether or not zinc as a nutritional aspect of diet has an impact. Kim and the team plan to research that area next.

Source: Northwestern University, Medical News Today


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