The Story of Dolly the Sheep – First Cloned Mammal Ever

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The first cloned sheep named Dolly was born on 5th July 1996 in Scotland at a research facility known as “Roslin Institute.” The news of the birth of a cloned mammal intrigued the whole world as the entire cloning concept was based on the theory that it is impossible to clone using an adult cell. However, the researchers made the previously thought to be impossible, possible. The Roslin facility successfully cloned a sheep from a cell of the mammary gland of a six years old Finn Dorset sheep.

Dolly’s Inception

Dolly’s Inception

Professor Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute pictured, with his old friend, ‘Dolly’. (Photo by Maurice McDonald – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

The scientists have always been attracted to cloning which is the most controversial subject in modern science as it involves giving birth to something identical to its parent. However, when Dolly was introduced to the world, everyone became astonished so much so that the institute in which she was born had to answer almost 3,000 phone calls after the declaration of Dolly’s birth.

The researcher of Roslin wanted to show the world that a mammal can be cloned from an adult cell, and so they started their project in 1995 which resulted in success. Thus, Dolly’s journey began a year before her birth.

Two Hundred Seventy-Seven Time’s a Charm

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Although Dolly was born in 1996, the scientists at Roslin institute disclosed the matter only on 22 February 1997. They waited several months to pile up the needed data and write down all the procedures they had to go through to make the cloning possible.

It was later published that the researchers got their much-awaited result after attempting for the 277 times. The researchers made a miracle happen which was a breakthrough in the history of cloning.

What is Cloning and is it Safe to Eat?

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Cloning is a process through which genetically identical individuals can be originated. This is a term of much controversy as many countries are concerned about the possibility of human cloning in the future. However, there has been no question raised about animal cloning so far.

In January 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed their view that milk and meat from any cloned animal can be consumed. This has provided the researchers with the opportunity to clone livestock for agricultural purposes as well as for testing medicines on them.

How to Create a Sheep

How to Create a Sheep

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The researchers decided to collect an adult cell from a six-year-old white sheep. They obtained a cell from the mammary gland and isolated the nucleus form that cell. Then they placed the nucleus into an egg cell which was derived from a Scottish Black-faced female sheep.

The egg cell was unfertilized, and the nucleus of the cell was removed only to be replaced by the nucleus collected from the adult cell. Then the scientists fused the newly formed cell, and with the electric shock, they managed to commence the process of dividing which led to creating the Blastocyst. Then, they put the Embryo into another Scottish Black-faced female sheep. Easy.

The Cloning Team

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Dr Ian Wilmut. (Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Roslin Institute had an excellent team made of researchers, biologist, vets, embryologists, surgeons, technicians and farm staffs. The team was under the supervision of Sir Ian Wilmut who became a well-known figure around the world for achieving such a fantastic achievement.

From the pioneers of modern science to the general people of any household, all were astonished to see a remarkable accomplishment being unfolded just before the millennium. Another scientist who is also remembered for his involvement in the cloning project was Prof Keith Campbell.

There are also two technicians who claimed that they dedicated their lives to the process of creating Dolly. Bill Ritchie and Karen Mycock. However, they were not highlighted as the scientists in the research paper that was published in “Nature Magazine” in 1997. Instead of being in the list of authors, they appeared in the list of acknowledgments at the end of the paper.

It All Started With a Single Cell

It All Started With a Single Cell

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Dolly was cloned from a somatic cell of a Scottish Black-faced female sheep. Previously it was thought that cloning could only be done with embryonic cells. However, the researchers of Roslin Institute decided to challenge the contemporary concept of cloning. They decided to take the cell from an adult sheep. Somatic cells are all the cells that comprise the body except the cells which can be found in the sexual organs. Somatic cells had not been used for cloning before the cloning of Dolly.

Deep Dive Into the Process

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First, the somatic cell was isolated from the adult sheep. Then the nucleus and DNA was removed from the egg cell. The nucleus then is added to the egg cell. Later in the test tube, the egg was developed into an embryo. After that, it was implanted into a Black-faced female sheep.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

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Dolly got her name as a tribute to the famous country singer Dolly Parton. The researchers found the name best suited the sheep. The renowned singer was known for her country songs like “I Will Always Love You,” “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors.” to name a few. The team leader Sir Wilmut disclosed the fact that Dolly was created from a mammary cell, so they found it would be perfect to name her after Dolly Parton who at that time possessed a voluptuous figure.

Life of a Sheep

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As Dolly became the center of attraction of the world after her birth, she had to remain under surveillance in the research facility. However, within the boundaries of the institute, she led an ordinary life. She had to appear before media on some occasion, but other than that she spent her day just as a regular female sheep.

She had a family with a Mountain Ram from Welsh named David. She gave birth to six lambs over the years. The couple got their first lamb in April 1998 named Bonnie. Dolly also gave birth to twins in the following year and triplets in 2000. The twins were called Sally and Rosie, and the triplets were Lucy, Darcy, and Cotton.

Dolly’s Sickness

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In 2001, after five years, the staff started noticing Dolly’s walking difficulties. She was then examined to find out the cause, and the examination proved she has Arthritis (a disorder that affects joints). The news caused a great fuss in the media who then started to believe that cloning from an adult cell would cause premature aging.

However, the actual cause behind Dolly’s Arthritis was never discovered. Dolly was cured after getting anti-inflammatory treatment on a regular basis. She recovered after a few months.

The Beginning of the End

The Beginning of the End

The fleece from Dolly the Cloned Sheep is checked by Research Fellow Barry Greenwood of Leeds University as he carries out test dyes on some of the fleece before using it to make a colorful sweater. Photo John Giles.PA. See PA Story SCIENCE Dolly. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Dolly was diagnosed again in 2003 when she suddenly started coughing. Spotted by a worker, Dolly was then thoroughly examined to find out if there was anything to be afraid of. Unfortunately, the CT scan revealed that Dolly had tumors in her lungs which were damaging her lungs. This is a common disease which can be found in sheep caused by retrovirus JSRV.

Saying Goodbye to Dolly

Saying Goodbye to Dolly

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When it was found that Dolly’s death was imminent, the scientists decided to euthanize Dolly to free her from the painful death to follow. She was then put to rest for good, and the famous sheep left our planet at the age of six. Usually, a sheep like Dolly would live for 11-12 years, but she only lived for half of the expected years.

Dolly’s Legacy

Dolly’s Legacy

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Dolly’s creation propelled the cloning industry to march forward with the belief that in the future we can clone from ordinary cells and grow essential body parts to cure diseases. The creation of Dolly has been considered as a revolution in modern biotechnology. The scientists got their motivation from that fantastic feat, and till this day, the birth of that an amazing Finn-Dorset is considered as the stepping-stone to reach higher goals like curing the most lethal diseases of human beings.