Researchers conducted the study on mice eggs using new imaging techniques to map the zinc atoms in each one. It turns out, each egg has some 8,000 compartments known as vesicles, and inside each one of those, you'll find 1 million zinc atoms. (Yes, really: a million!) Once the egg is fertilized, those zinc atoms are released all at once, thus "setting off sparks."
“Each egg has four or five of these periodic sparks," Dr. O'Halloran wrote in his statement. "It is beautiful to see, orchestrated much like a symphony. We knew zinc was released by the egg in huge amounts, but we had no idea how the egg did this.”
Curious as to what it looks like? You can watch it all go down in this video:
Here's the even better part, though: Researchers say that the new imaging techniques used during the study may have another added benefit, too. Experts will most likely be able to use them during the in-vitro fertilization process, as a way for doctors to better identify which eggs are more viable and likely to produce healthy embryos.
“If we can identify the best eggs, fewer embryos would need to be transferred during fertility treatments," added study co-author and ovarian biology expert Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff. "Our findings will help move us toward this goal."