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  • Writer's pictureJulie McKay, FCP

The Spark of Life Chemistry

This blog post is written by my husband (and chemistry/physics teacher) Robby McKay.

My favorite slide from the Creighton model introductory session is the “spark of life”. The slide references how there is a detectable spark during conception. This spark highlights the beauty in God’s creation from the very beginning of life. It also reminds me that God’s will is done even by the atoms and molecules that make up the physical universe. I am constantly in awe of God’s creativeness found in science and I want to share some of the highlights from the research done at Northwestern University (Duncan et al., 2016) that led to the observation of the “spark of life”.

1.     The element zinc is responsible for the spark

The spark of life is caused by the element zinc. This metal is found in egg cells; the level of zinc is dependent on the stage of meiosis (sex cell reproduction process). When zinc is chelated or leaves the egg cell, it creates the beautiful spark we call the “spark of life”.

2.     Zinc is released at the time of conception

The chelation (release) of zinc from the egg cell occurs at the time of conception. The study found that when chemical triggers were used on the egg that mirror those that occur when a sperm fertilizes an egg cell, zinc was released from the cell causing the spark. As zinc leaves the cell, there is an increase in the presence of calcium in the cell. The seeming coincidence of this timing points to the endless creativity of God found in science. It also speaks to the true beauty found in the fertilization of every egg and the creation of human life from the very chemical, biological, and theological beginning.

3.     The release of zinc is sufficient to start egg activation

The egg cells in the study underwent several chemical treatments to trigger the release of zinc. The study showed that even in the absence of sperm-like chemical triggers, simply the release of zinc was sufficient for egg activation. During egg activation, the zygote (sex cell) which undergoes DNA replication (with half the chromosomes) and cell division through meiosis transitions to the process of mitosis which is the replication of an embryotic cell with a full set of chromosomes. This means that at conception, the zinc is released in a beautiful spark followed by the activation of the processes needed to grow the newly formed embryo and human.  


God choses to enter into our lives each and everyday and develop a personal relationship with us. He also brought us into a world built with His beauty, love and creativeness. As you go through the coming week, look around you and contemplate how God is present in the natural workings of the physical world in the same way He is in the zinc chelation triggered spark of life at the beginning of every human life.


Duncan, F. E., Que, E. L., Zhang, N., Feinberg, E. C., O'Halloran, T. V., & Woodruff, T. K. (2016). The zinc spark is an inorganic signature of human egg activation. Scientific reports6, 24737.

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