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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.
James Graves Wilson's six principles of teratology, published in 1959, guide research on teratogenic agents and their effects on developing organisms. Wilson's six principles were inspired by Gabriel Madeleine Camille Dareste's five principles of experimental teratology published in 1877. Teratology is the study of birth defects, and a teratogen is something that either induces or amplifies abnormal embryonic or fetal development and causes birth defects.