Ian Wilmut, an embryologist, was a leading researcher at the Roslin institute in Scotland when he began to experiment in the world of cloning. He began research in 1986, and on July 5, 1996, Dolly the sheep was born, becoming the first ever cloned adult mammal. Dolly eventually died in February of 2003 at 6 years old, which is quite young for a sheep.
How was Dolly Cloned?
There are many benefits to being able to clone large mammals:
- They can be cloned with genetic diseases and be used to find cures.
- We can use this technology to save endangered species.
- Variables while testing on clones are little to none, since all clones from the same cell line are genetically the same.
Successfully cloning an adult mammal didn't only create applications in the science community. It also created ripples in animal rights groups. Many people believe that cloning animals is unethical and that using them purely for science violates their rights. People were also afraid of what they believe would come next: human cloning.
Dolly wasn't the only cloned sheep at Roslin institute. After Dolly's successful cloning, four more sheep were cloned with the same cell line and are currently as healthy as any normally born sheep. These four sheep are already 9 years old, and show no signs of premature aging yet. Plenty of clones have shown signs of shorter than normal telomeres; however, there has been more cases of clones with completely normal telomere lengths than clones with short telomeres. The shorter the telomeres are, the older the cell is.