The first mammal cloned from an adult cell, Dolly the sheep. In 1997, The Roslin Institute introduced Dolly to the world. It caused a frenzy of attention. In the twenty-five years since Dolly’s birth, we have cloned many more species of animals with little fanfare. In February 2021, scientists announced they’d successfully cloned the first U.S. endangered species, the black-footed ferret. The ferret is just one part of Dolly’s legacy. The other part of the legacy of Dolly the sheep may be your future health.
The Life of Dolly the Cloned Sheep
Born on July 5th 1996, Dolly’s white face confirmed she was a clone. The black-faced surrogate ewe who birthed her could not be her genetic mother.
Scientists tested Dolly’s DNA when she was one. They discovered that her DNA telomeres (end caps) were shorter than expected. Scientists thought that since the cells used to create Dolly came from an adult sheep may have caused the abnormality. They thought the adult cells somehow prevented her telomeres from developing normally.
At two, Dolly mated with a Welsh Mountain ram called David. Dolly gave birth to a female lamb in 1998,. She had twin lambs the next year and triplets in 2000.
In September 2000, Dolly was one of several sheep at The Institute that came down with a sheep retro virus (JSRV). The virus causes lung cancer in sheep.
They diagnosed Dolly with arthritis in 2001 and treated her with anti-inflammatory medications, but never found a cause for her arthritis.
She developed lung cancer and euthanized on February 14, 2003. She was a young six years old. The average life expectancy of her variety of sheep is 11-12. Many feared clones aged faster or didn’t start from age zero.
Dolly’s Legacy—Cloning Endangered Species
Black-footed ferrets are the only ferret species native to North America. They are also one of North America’s most endangered species. Worldwildlife.org estimates there are approximate 370 black-footed ferrets in the wild today.
Those 370 ferrets are the descendants of seven closely related animals. That lack of genetic diversity will lead to the extinction of these ferrets.
That’s why the February 18, 2021 announcement by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, caused such excitement.
Elizabeth Ann, a black-footed ferret was born on December 10. She was cloned from the frozen remains of a ferret named Willa who died in 1988. If conservationists can reintroduce genetic diversity to the black-footed ferret population, they may prevent the species extinction. They may prevent future extinction if scientists can manipulate the genes to help the animals survive the diseases that endanger them today.
Conservationists and animal lovers celebrate this possibility. But in my post, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I discuss the potential pitfalls of conservation genetics. But conservation genetics is only part of Dolly’s legacy.
An article written in 2016, reported that Dolly had four “sisters” born in 2004. They cloned these sheep from the same genetic material used to clone Dolly. Dolly’s “sisters” are unlike the Azrael in The Fellowship Dystopia series of novels. They were a healthy old age of nine in 2016. The only difference between them and Dolly is that they are kept outside instead of in a barn 24/7.
Scientists confirmed that all signs of biological and chronological age matched between cloned and non-cloned sheep.
There seems to be a natural built-in mechanism in the eggs that can rejuvenate a cell.Theconversation.com
If scientists can discover this mechanism, it may lead to cures for many diseases.
Will You Benefit from Dolly’s Legacy?
If scientists could manipulate your genes with a simple treatment or vaccination that cured or prevented diseases like cancer, dementia, arthritis, or chronic pain—would you take the treatment? A huge part of the legacy of Dolly the Sheep may be your future health.