Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dolly the sheep

Remember Dolly, the cloned sheep? She was born in 1996, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. She lived at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where she was created, and produced 4 lambs after mating with a Welsh mountain ram. She developed arthritis, which was treated, and a progressive lung disease, which couldn't be cured. Expected to live the average 11-12 years for a Finn Dorset sheep, Dolly was euthanized in 2003 at the age of 6. A post-mortem examination revealed that she had a form of lung cancer that is not uncommon for her breed and was unrelated to her cloning. Promised to the National Museums of Scotland (NMS), Dolly is now on display - drawing visitors from all over the world and traveling temporily to a science museum in Budapest. "When we do taxidermy, we like to capture the character of an animal, and we're also keen to show particular behaviours," said Andrew Kitchener, of the NMS. "Dolly is displayed standing on all fours on a plinth, which is covered in straw and a few sheep droppings. Her head is turned slightly to the [right], and she's looking adoringly at her inquiring audience." According to Taxidermy: Ravishing Beasts, Dolly is unremarkable, but that's just the point. The expensive technique of cloning does not alleviate problems of loss of genetic diversity, although it may be used to preserve endangered species - and possibly even reproduce extinct species like woolly mammoths. By the way, she was named after the well-endowed Dolly Parton because the donor cell came from a mammary gland!

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