Life Begins at Fertilization – Peer Reviewed Scientific Sources

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Here is a list of peer reviewed scientific papers that affirm the following fact:

A new human organism begins to exist when the process of fertilization is successfully completed. I phrase it like that to avoid failed fertilization events like a choriocarcinoma or molar pregnancies, as well as misunderstandings about what I mean by “life” (yes I know life is a continuum) or “begins” (yes I know life began a really really long time ago). It is also designed to concede the fact that there is no “moment of fertilization”, but that it is a process.

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This is not scientifically peer reviewed, but a very well referenced paper called “When Does Human Life Begin? The Scientific Evidence and Terminology Revisited” by Maureen L. Condic. It dissects the language and general principles used by people on this subject, and is well worth the read.

This is also not a scientifically peer reviewed post, but SPL’s Human Beings Begin as Zygotes is another great overview of this discussion as it relates to the topic of abortion.

It is worth noting that the terms “conception” and “fertilization” are being used as synonyms here, but there are occasions where conception is confused with implantation. Conception/fertilization is used here to describe when two haploid gametes (sperm and ovum in this context) are successfully fused and mitotic development begins with the zygote stage. I do my best to avoid this confusion, but if you see it, please let me know.

It’s also worth pointing out that this is not meant to argue for the personhood of the embryo, or the inherent value of human beings. Those are important subjects, but this is just a list of scientific papers.

If you think a paper should be added to (or removed from) this list, send me an email at

Without further ado, here is the ever growing list (in no particular order):

  1. Fertilization. 2013.
    “Fertilization-the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism-is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes.”
  2. The oocyte-to-embryo transition. 2013.
    “The oocyte-to-embryo transition refers to the process whereby a fully grown, relatively quiescent oocyte undergoes maturation, fertilization, and is converted into a developmentally active, mitotically dividing embryo, arguably one of the most dramatic transitions in biology.”
  3. A role for the elongator complex in zygotic paternal genome demethylation. 2010.
    The life cycle of mammals begins when a sperm enters an egg. Immediately after fertilization, both the maternal and paternal genomes undergo dramatic reprogramming to prepare for the transition from germ cell to somatic cell transcription programs.”
  4. Roles of the oviduct in mammalian fertilization. 2012
    The oviduct or Fallopian tube is the anatomical region where every new life begins in mammalian species. After a long journey, the spermatozoa meet the oocyte in the specific site of the oviduct named ampulla and fertilization takes place”
  5. Model systems for membrane fusion. 2011
    “Membrane fusion has an overarching influence on living organisms. The fusion of sperm and egg membranes initiates the life of a sexually reproducing organism.”
  6. Penetration, adhesion, and fusion in mammalian sperm-egg interaction. 2002.
    “Fertilization is the sum of the cellular mechanisms that pass the genome from one generation to the next and initiate development of a new organism.”
  7. Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation. 2012
    “Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.”
  8. The cell cycle: a new entry in the field of Ca2+ signaling. 2005.
    “Ca2+ signaling plays a crucial role in virtually all cellular processes, from the origin of new life at fertilization to the end of life when cells die.”
  9. Oviductal, endometrial and embryonic gene expression patterns as molecular clues for pregnancy establishment. 2012.
    “In higher animals, the beginning of new life and transfer of genetic material to the next generation occurs in the oviduct when two distinct gametes cells unite resulting in the formation of a zygote
  10. Calcium channels in the development, maturation, and function of spermatozoa. 2011.
    “A proper dialogue between spermatozoa and the egg is essential for conception of a new individual in sexually reproducing animals. Ca(2+) is crucial in orchestrating this unique event leading to a new life.
  11. Acrosome reaction in the cumulus oophorus revisited: involvement of a novel sperm-released factor NYD-SP8. 2011.
    “Fertilization is a process involving multiple steps that lead to the final fusion of one sperm and the oocyte to form the zygote.”
  12. The immunoglobulin superfamily protein Izumo is required for sperm to fuse with eggs. 2005.
    “Representing the 60 trillion cells that build a human body, a sperm and an egg meet, recognize each other, and fuse to form a new generation of life.”
  13. Signal transduction pathways leading to Ca2+ release in a vertebrate model
    system: lessons from Xenopus eggs. 2006
    “At fertilization, eggs unite with sperm to initiate developmental programs that give rise to development of the embryo. Defining the molecular mechanism of this fundamental process at the beginning of life has been a key question in cell and developmental biology.”
  14. Starting a new life: Sperm PLC-zeta mobilizes the Ca2+ signal that induces egg activation and embryo development. 2011.
    “We have discovered that a single sperm protein, phospholipase C-zeta (PLCζ), can stimulate intracellular Ca(2+) signalling in the unfertilized oocyte (‘egg’) culminating in the initiation of embryonic development. Upon fertilization by a spermatozoon, the earliest observed signalling event in the dormant egg is a large, transient increase in free Ca(2+) concentration. The fertilized egg responds to the intracellular Ca(2+) rise by completing meiosis
  15. How to make a good egg!: The need for remodeling of oocyte Ca(2+) signaling to mediate the egg-to-embryo transition. 2012
    The egg-to-embryo transition marks the initiation of multicellular organismal development and is mediated by a specialized Ca(2+) transient at fertilization.”
  16. Ca2+ signaling differentiation during oocyte maturation. 2007.
    “Oocyte maturation is an essential cellular differentiation pathway that prepares the egg for activation at fertilization leading to the initiation of embryogenesis”
  17. Sperm-egg fusion assay in mammals. 2008.
    “As representatives of the 60 trillion cells that make a human body, a sperm and an egg meet, recognize each other, and fuse to create a new generation.”
  18. Sperm chromatin: fertile grounds for proteomic discovery of clinical tools. 2008.
    “Sperm are remarkably complex cells with a singularly important mission: to deliver paternal DNA and its associated factors to the oocyte to start a new life.”
  19. Gene expression during the oocyte-to-embryo transition in mammals. 2009.
    “The seminal question in modern developmental biology is the origins of new life arising from the unification of sperm and egg. The roots of this question begin from 19th to 20th century embryologists studying fertilization and embryogenesis.”
  20. Fertilization and the oocyte-to-embryo transition in C. elegans. 2010.
    “Fertilization is a complex process comprised of numerous steps. During fertilization, two highly specialized and differentiated cells (sperm and egg) fuse and subsequently trigger the development of an embryo from a quiescent, arrested oocyte”
  21. A profile of fertilization in mammals. 2001.
    Fertilization is defined as the process of union of two gametes, eggs and sperm. When mammalian eggs and sperm come into contact in the female oviduct, a series of steps is set in motion that can lead to fertilization and ultimately to development of new individuals.
  22. Cell fusion during development. 2007.
    Most readers of this review originated from a sperm-egg fusion event.
  23. Sperm-egg fusion assay in mammals. 2008.
    “As representatives of the 60 trillion cells that make a human body, a sperm and an egg meet, recognize each other, and fuse to create a new generation. Thus, gamete fusion is an extremely important process that must transpire without error to launch life activity.”
  24. Model systems for membrane fusion. 2011.
    “Membrane fusion has an overarching influence on living organisms. The fusion of sperm and egg membranes initiates the life of a sexually reproducing organism. Intracellular membrane fusion facilitates molecular trafficking within every cell of the organism during its entire lifetime, and virus-cell membrane fusion may signal the end of the organism’s life.”
  25. Sperm-egg interaction. 2012.
    “A crucial step of fertilization is the sperm-egg interaction that allows the two gametes to fuse and create the zygote.”

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