Written by Madhav Bahl, a grade 8 student
Dolly was a very special sheep – because she was not born the normal way. She was cloned, and it was a big deal when scientists were able to do this. That was 25 years ago.
Here’s all about her and what cloning is.
First – what’s cloning?
Put simply – think of cloning like making a carbon copy of a living thing. Sounds unbelievable – but that’s what it is. It’s the process of producing one or more genetically identical individuals or animals.
Sounds complicated. How is it done?
Cloning is a very complex process in which the genes from one animal are used to create a new animal- almost an exact copy (this can be done for humans too).
In the process of cloning, scientists take DNA out of a cell of one animal and take an egg from another animal and remove that egg’s DNA. Then they put the first animal’s DNA into the empty egg. The egg then develops into an embryo, which is put inside a female animal. She carries this clone until it is born.
The concept of cloning started at the end of the 20th century and there were various failed attempts. It was at Roslin institute in the United Kingdom where a sheep was successfully cloned. Called Dolly, she was cloned on July 5, 1996, and was the first cloned animal to survive for some time but died early and made cloning a controversial topic.
How was Dolly Cloned?
The udder cells of a white 6-year-old sheep were used for Dolly’s cloning. These cells are found in the female’s milk glands (called udder glands).
The egg cell was from a black-faced sheep, with the DNA of a white-faced sheep. Scientists made 277 of these cells, which were then fused into many different sheep. Of the 277 sheep, only one developed into a lamb. It was named Dolly.
Dolly had the same white face as the sheep from which the udder cell was taken and had the exact same DNA as the udder cell donor. It was a success. However, when Doly died at the age of six due to lung disease, some people said it was because she was cloned. Ironically the sheep she was the actual copy of Dolly died due to the same disease. Scientists, however, disagree that she died because she was a clone.
Why do we clone animals?
Some animals have various features that make them special so we can clone them to get those qualities. For example, a lamb can have soft fur, richer milk, good meat, etc and we will clone it to get such characteristics. It was said by the US Food and Drug Association that cloned animals are almost as safe as other animals hence we can clone them.
Other Aspects of cloning
Cloning can also increase the number of endangered or even bring back extinct species if enough genetic material can be found. Pyrenean Ibex became the first extinct species to be cloned and the first species to go extinct twice after the DNA of the last Pyrenean ibex which died by falling down a tree was used. It can also be used for transplanting healthy organs in infected or old organs to save from diseases like clogged heart, kidney malfunction, etc.
Examples of cloning in our daily life
We do get a lot of cloned vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Some examples are Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and Gala apples are all clones, as are garlic and most blueberries.
Drawbacks of cloning
It is very costly and has very adverse effects. As the cell of the animal whose clone is being taken is already divided many times the life of the animal might be smaller than others. Also, changes like an increase in birth size and problems in vital organs have also been observed.
Can humans be cloned?
Technologically it is possible to clone humans too. However, there’s a great debate about whether that should be allowed or not. While we can possibly create clones of great people, what if someone creates clones of people like Hitler?
It’s best not to meddle with nature!
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