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The spark of life meets IVF (and Uncle Andrew)

What do you get when a sperm meets an egg? A new life, a new soul . . . and a dazzling flash of light. According to a science story in the Telegraph UK

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

For the first time, researchers have caught these intimate little human fireworks on film.

The bright flash occurs because when sperm enters and egg it triggers calcium to increase which releases zinc from the egg. As the zinc shoots out, it binds to small molecules which emit a fluorescence which can be picked up my camera microscopes.

When I saw the headline, I caught my breath. “It’s almost,” I told my husband, “As if something amazing is going on! Something that shouldn’t be messed with!”

Then I read the rest of the story, and I let my breath out in a sigh. One of the researchers involved in the project called the zinc flash “breathtaking,” — and then went on to explain:

This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization.

Breathtaking indeed. We stand in a dark doorway and behold the brilliant spark of life itself, and we say to ourselves, “Think of the commercial possibilities!” I’m thinking of venal, wretched Uncle Andrew in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. Accidentally graced to be present at the creation of Narnia, Uncle Andrew saw that flash, too, as life came into being:

Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music. Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody) either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying:
“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.

Narnia here is only minutes old, and the rich new soil is so fertile and fresh that everything that touches it springs into life and flourishes and bears fruit. Even gold and silver coins that spill from his pocket, even bits of toffee. And Uncle Andrew rubs his hands and hatches a plan to dash back home and find some bits of trains and warships that he can grow into iron trees and sell for a profit.

Thus the researcher as she witnesses that dazzling flash of new life:

[Y]ou will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization. . . It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way we’ve never been able to assess before.

You can just hear her rubbing her hands and she mentally fondles the potential profit.

I’ll let the honest Cabby, destined to be the king of Narnia, answer her:

Oh stow it, Guv’nor, do stow it. Watchin’ and listenin’s the thing at present; not talking.

Am I being too hard on these researchers? It is true that they’re making money as they force human life into being. They profit from sorting through tiny persons, flushing the inferior ones away, and inserting the heartiest specimens back into a likely uterine home, hoping their investment will pay off.

But they do want to help. They do not want to harm, surely. The researcher says:

“There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg. Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues.

“That’s the reason this is so transformative. If we have the ability up front to see what is a good egg and what’s not, it will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”

Surely more life, less heartache, is always a worthy goal? Surely if we can, we should? To increase life, to sustain life, to avoid heartache. We can do it. Shouldn’t we?

Here is what Aslan says:

“Alas … Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire … All get what they want; they do not always like it.”

Light brings heartache. Darkness brings heartache. You will not be spared heartache, no matter how hard you try to catch that spark in a jar like a lightning bug. If you love life, then do not quantify. Do not sort. Do not coax, and do not discard. If you love life, you will let it flash out its brilliance in its own time, and you will let it go out when it will. It is not ours to coax into being, and it is not ours to snuff out.

***

Image: “Ancient of Days” by William Blake – William Blake Archive, Public Domain,

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