Fertilization / Implantation

‘Flash of Light’ Not Needed to Prove Conception

A fluorescent flash captures the moment that sperm enzyme enters the egg — see photos at http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2016/05/flash-of-light-not-needed-to-prove-conception/#.V0TTgvkrLIU In a May 23, 2016, National Catholic Register article, ”Contrary to Reports, There is No Flash of Light at Conception,” writer Stacy Trasancos takes some people who wrote about the amazing research article and video to task for exaggerations: “At conception, there is no flash of light, no burst of fireworks, no sparks flying, no fiat lux, no scientific proof of ensoulment, no vindication of doctrine by this research. There is a misunderstanding.” She is right that claims of ensoulment or actual “fireworks” in the mother is a misunderstanding. That is not what the authors of the research were writing about. But while I understand Ms. Trasancos’ point about the over- excitement by some writers, the phenomenon itself actually is a pretty big deal. I am a nurse, not a scientist, but I read the scientific article myself before I wrote a recent blog on the research. The researchers were not trying to make a theological or philosophical point but rather reporting a testing phenomenon: “We monitored calcium and zinc dynamics in individual human eggs using selective fluorophores following activation with calcium-ionomycin, ionomycin, or hPLC? cRNA microinjection. These egg activation methods, as expected, induced rises in intracellular calcium levels and also triggered the coordinated release of zinc into the extracellular space in a prominent “zinc spark.” For the lay audience, the truly relevant point is that there IS a moment of “human egg activation.” Using fluorescence to show a chemical reaction accompanying that moment of activation enhances the reality of when life...

A Scientific View of When Life Begins

The question of when human life begins has been answered in a variety of ways by different religious and philosophical traditions throughout the ages, leading many to conclude the question cannot be definitively answered. Yet what does science tell us about when life begins?[1] One of the basic insights of modern biology is that life is continuous, with living cells giving rise to new types of cells and, ultimately, to new individuals. Therefore, in considering the question of when a new human life begins, we must first address the more fundamental question of when a new cell, distinct from sperm and egg, comes into existence. The scientific basis for distinguishing one cell type from another rests on two criteria: differences in what something is made of (its molecular composition) and differences in how the cell behaves. These two criteria are universally agreed upon and employed throughout the scientific enterprise. They are not “religious” beliefs or matters of personal opinion. They are objective, verifiable scientific criteria that determine precisely when a new cell type is formed. Based on these criteria, the joining (or fusion) of sperm and egg clearly produces a new cell type, the zygote or one-cell embryo. Cell fusion is a well studied and very rapid event, occurring in less than a second. Because the zygote arises from the fusion of two different cells, it contains all the components of both sperm and egg, and therefore this new cell has a unique molecular composition that is distinct from either gamete. Thus the zygote that comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion meets the first scientific criterion...