Dolly the Sheep

64 – Dolly the Sheep is born

July 5, 1996

IT used to be that if you said “Dolly” you probably meant country singer Ms Parton.

However, the birth of one wee lamb saw a new contender for the most famous incarnation of that particular name.

She was the first mammal successfully cloned using an adult cell and was the result of work by biologist Ian Wilmut at the Roslin Institute – a government research facility near Edinburgh.

Until this point, cloning had been the stuff of science fiction.

The birth of Dolly changed all that.

The team took adult cells from a Finnish Dorset ewe, starved them of nutrients, and injected them into sheep eggs.

An electric current was then applied to the cells, causing them to form an embryo which was then implanted into a surrogate sheep.

Dolly is now on display in Edinburgh (PA Wire)
Dolly is now on display in Edinburgh (PA Wire)

Out of 434 attempts, one succeeded, and Dolly the sheep was born. Importantly, she had an almost identical genetic make-up to the ewe from which the adult cells had been taken.

Dolly’s existence was announced on February 22, 1997, when she was seven months old, sending the world’s media into frenzy as the debate about the possibility of human cloning intensified.

Dolly developed arthritis at the relatively young age of five, and was put down aged six after developing a progressive lung disease.

Whether this was a consequence of the cloning process is unknown.

What is known is that her birth saw Scotland stand out as the location of yet another major moment in the history of science.

Ewe knew we wouldn’t be sheepish about it.