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Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of dividing for long periods of time and can give rise to specialized cells under particular conditions. Embryonic stem cells are a particular type of stem cell derived from embryos. According to US National Institutes of Health (NIH), in humans, the term "embryo" applies to a fertilized egg from the beginning of division up to the end of the eighth week of gestation, when the embryo becomes a fetus. Between fertilization and the eighth week of gestation, the embryo undergoes multiple cell divisions.
In 1934 a fourteen-day-old embryo was discovered during a postmortem examination and became famous for being the youngest known human embryo specimen at the time. The embryo was coined "the Yale Embryo," named after the location where it was discovered, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. During the early twentieth century, the rush to collect embryos as well as to find younger and younger embryos was at an all time high, and the Yale Embryo is representative of the this enthusiasm.
Abortion is the removal of the embryo or fetus from the womb, before birth can occur-either naturally or by induced labor. Prenatal development occurs in three stages: the zygote, or fertilized egg; the embryo, from post-conception to eight weeks; and the fetus, from eight weeks after conception until the baby is born. After abortion, the infant does not and cannot live. Spontaneous abortion is the loss of the infant naturally or accidentally, without the will of the mother. It is more commonly referred to as miscarriage.
Umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells are hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) that are recovered from the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Umbilical cord blood is rich in cells that express the CD34 molecule, a surface protein that identifies cells as stem cells. Prior to the discovery of UCB stem cells, it was standard procedure to discard the umbilical cord and placenta; now much effort is devoted to raising public awareness and to encouraging people to store or donate cord blood.