CHICAGO --- 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 swi
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