Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What Makes a Good Egg and Healthy Embryo?

10.08.2010
Discovery about zinc’s role may help in future fertility treatments

Scientists as well as fertility doctors have long tried to figure out what makes a good egg that will produce a healthy embryo. It’s a particularly critical question for fertility doctors deciding which eggs isolated from a woman will produce the best embryos and, ultimately, babies.

New research reveals healthy eggs need a tremendous amount of zinc to reach maturity and be ready for fertilization -- a finding that may ultimately help physicians assess the best eggs for fertility treatment, according to a study from Northwestern University.

“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.“

There’s no link yet to zinc content in the egg and the nutritional status of women, but Kim plans to research that area.

Kim is the lead author of a paper that will be published in the September issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology. The article will be featured on the cover. Co-senior authors are Tom O’Halloran, director of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern and associate director of basic sciences at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and Teresa Woodruff, the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and executive director of the Institute for Women's Health Research at Feinberg. Woodruff also is a member of the Lurie Cancer Center.

Northwestern scientists, working with mice, discovered the egg becomes ravenous for zinc and acquires a 50 percent increase in the metal in order to reach full maturity before becoming fertilized. The flood of zinc appears to flip a switch so the egg can progress through the final stages of meiosis. Meiosis is when the egg sheds all but one copy of its maternal chromosomes before it can 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 O’Halloran, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. “It’s on the knife’s edge of becoming a new life form or becoming a cell that dies. It only has 24 hours. Zinc seems to be a key switch that helps control whether the egg moves forward in its development stage. “

Kim found there were approximately 60 billion zinc atoms in a mouse egg just before the egg was ready to be fertilized. She measured the zinc content of the eggs using a technique called synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy through collaboration with the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. This method allowed detection of multiple metals in single eggs using the characteristic X-ray signature of each element.

Zinc levels were significantly higher in eggs than other important metals such as iron and copper. Zinc was the only metal to change significantly in concentration during the maturation process.

Northwestern scientists also used small molecules to block the accumulation of zinc by the maturing egg. They found an insufficient accumulation of zinc caused all the eggs to pause prematurely at the beginning stage of meiosis. The progression of meiosis was restored by returning zinc to the eggs.

Research on the role of zinc was funded by a W.M. Keck Foundation Medical Research Award, the Center for Reproductive Science through the NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern University through NIH/National Institute of General Medicine. Use of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory was supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Marla Paul is the health sciences editor. Contact her at marla-paul@northwestern.edu

Marla Paul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>