Dolly the Sheep
In February 1997, scientists at the Roslin Institute, a biological research facility in Edinburgh, Scotland, announced the birth of a healthy lamb, Dolly, born to a six-year-old ewe. Dolly was normal in all respects but one--she had not been sired by a ram but rather cloned from her mother‘s cells. Institute scientists, manipulating udder cells from Dolly’s biological mother to cause them to function as a zygote, installed the resulting cell mass into a surrogate mother who, in turn, gave birth to Dolly following a normal gestation period. In genetic terms, Dolly is an identical twin of her mother. She is considered the clone of her mother, the term deriving from a Greek word meaning “twig.” Dolly appears to be healthy, although there were early reports that she might be aging more rapidly than might otherwise be expected. Dolly, herself, eventually gave birth to a lamb, albeit one sired in the traditional manner. Reports of Dolly’s arrival rocked the scientific world. They also caused a public sensation, with prognosticators’ speculations extending from the joyful--vistas opening in science, agriculture, and medicine--to the gloomy--human society descending into something akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Scientific analysts have discussed a spectrum of possible developments that may accrue from the knowledge gained in Dolly’s development. Some are largely economic (producing a better chicken for market); others appear to have only narrow applications (producing genetically identical mice whose laboratory use would generate greater researcher confidence in the validity of test results); yet others border on the bizarre and whimsical (cloning extinct animals such as the wooly mammoth).