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Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have been studying the release of zinc atoms from the egg’s surface once a sperm cell fuses with an egg.

Each egg has thousands of tiny compartments filled with millions of zinc atoms. When the egg is fertilized, these compartments release their contents, which is important for future maturation of the embryo.

The new imaging techniques they are using to capture this process may actually be useful for in vitro fertilization, in that the imaging techniques may help doctors be able to identify the best embryos.