Whatever Happened to Dolly, the Cloned Sheep?

Posted by Stacey Venzel
National Museum of Scotland

Dolly the cloned sheep didn't live very long. She is stuffed and on display in Scotland.

Dolly made headlines when her birth was announced back in 1997, seven months after her successful cloning; she was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Biologically copied from a mammary cell--an udder in this case--Dolly was named after Dolly Parton, for obvious endowment reasons.

The Finn Dorset sheep lived out her life in Scotland at the Roslin Institute, giving birth to six lambs, hybrids with a Welsh mountain ram. The first litter was only a single lamb, but the two that followed were twins and then triplets.

Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh
Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh

In 2001, Dolly's caretakers noticed she was walking stiff-legged. Medical analysis determined that she had developed arthritis. Cloning had been scrutinized by the public, and many scientists remained skeptical about Dolly's long term prognosis over the course of her lifetime, hypothesizing that cloning could lead to premature aging.

Dolly's young onset of arthritis suggested to many researchers that early aging was a result of the cloning process. She was put on NSAIDs and regained a normal, pain-free gait within a few months.

Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh
Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh

A sheep named Cedric had been cloned after Dolly and died in 2000, again securing suspicions about the long-term effects of cloning. Domestic sheep have a typical longevity of 10 to 12 years. Dolly began entering into coughing fits, first noticed on February 10, 2003. Radiological analysis found tumors in her chest, the same cause of death for Cedric, the other cloned sheep.

An offspring from Dolly's second litter had also been diagnosed with this disease, sheep pulmonary adenomatosis (SPA), and now it was confirmed that Dolly had SPA. She died four days later. Dolly had been anesthetized for the medical procedure and it was decided to humanely euthanize her at this time instead of prolonging her suffering by allowing her to regain consciousness.

Neil Turner/Flickr CC
Neil Turner/Flickr CC

The sheep was stuffed and placed in a glass case peppered with straw around the base. Dolly is on exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Though the museum is currently undergoing renovations, Dolly will be back on public display in July 2016.

Since this 1996 scientific breakthrough, cats, rabbits, donkeys, horses, pigs, goats, cows, and mice have been cloned in a similar fashion. Pet cloning has been the new headline, though the process is steeply priced at $100,000 and up.

Despite the high number, some pet owners have showcased a whole new tier of love for their animals, shelling out the dough to have a genetic copy of their deceased four-legged companion.

Tell us what you think of Dolly in the comments below!

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Whatever Happened to Dolly, the Cloned Sheep?