Dolly the Sheep Cloned
Itís ironic that the most famous animal in the world was also the least unique. Sure, all sheep look the same: but when Dolly the sheep was born on the 5th July 1996, she became the first mammal to have been successfully cloned from an adult cell. And for a humble Finn Dorset ewe, she created a furore that lasted longer than her short life. In fact, she created a cult of personality; it was a leap for science that propelled cloning into popular culture.
Dolly was created, therein lying the controversy, at the Roslin Institute, seven miles outside Edinburgh. Her birth was the sort of scientific breakthrough that resonated with ethical rancour. Her death in February 2003, put to sleep after suffering from a progressive lung disease and arthritis, raised concerns that the long-term health of clones could be compromised, lending weight to the the ethical debate against cloning.
Certainly, Dolly was no ordinary sheep. If asexual reproduction seems somewhat unromantic, donít tell professor Ian Wilmut, leader of the research team that created her. Named fittingly after buxom country singer Dolly Parton, Dolly was cloned from an adult mammary cell using the process of nuclear transfer; the resultant embryo was grown in a test tube before being placed in the womb of a surrogate.
Dolly was a fully-functioning sheep: bleating, baa-ing and giving birth to six lambs, the first of which was born on Easter Monday, 1998. Appropriately, in an age of celebrity worship, the birth was captured on film and broadcast worldwide. However, there was no evidence that expectant father, Welsh Mountain ram David, was nervously waiting outside, drawing on a cigar. It was also the last televised lambing season. Even Dollyís first fleece was newsworthy, and a jumper knitted from her wool is on exhibit at the Modern World gallery at the Science Museum .
For the Roslin Institute, Dolly was a rousing success; her gentle, woolly features were as effective in attracting research grants and industry plaudits as they were courting publicity. Dolly was named the Scientific Breakthrough of the Year 1997, and in the manner of many mollycoddled celebrities, she shunned the public eye, and for security reasons stayed within the safe confines of the institute. The debate will rage on as to the ethical merit of cloning, but she has paved the way for other animals to be cloned in the same manner, ushering in a Brave New World for science.
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