Dolly the sheep

Through 1996 to 2003, Roslin BioCentre was home to Dolly, arguably the world’s most famous sheep. During 1996, Professor Sir Ian Wilmut and his research group first cloned a mammal from an adult somatic cell, a lamb named Dolly, which grew into a normal adult sheep.

Birthplace of Dolly

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut is an embryologist and best known as the leader of the research group in 1996 that first cloned a mammal a lamb named Dolly, from an adult somatic cell, which grew into a normal adult sheep.

The development of the cloning technology at The Roslin Institute was an extension of interest in the application of transgenic technology to farm animals. Since embryonic stem cells had not been isolated from farm animals, this method of genetic modification was not available. Cloning was therefore a potential alternative way of achieving the same end.

Dolly started her life, as with all other cloned animals, in a test tube. Once normal development was confirmed at six days, the embryo that was eventually to become Dolly was transferred into a surrogate mother.

Pregnancy was confirmed by an ultrasound scan at about 45 days of gestation and the pregnancy was monitored closely for the remaining 100 days. The pregnancy went without a problem and Dolly was born on the 5th July 1996. Unlike many cloned animals which often have neonatal problems at birth, Dolly was a normal vigorous lamb and was standing and suckling unaided within minutes. The animal technicians were aware that this was an important lamb and critical to the research team that had produced her but they were completely unaware of the impact she would finally have.

In an attempt to allow Dolly to have as normal as life as possible and to demonstrate that she was physiologically normal it was decided that she should be allowed to breed. A small welsh mountain ram was selected as her mate and between them they successfully produced six lambs. Their first, Bonny, was born in the spring of 1998. Twins followed the next year and triplets the year after that.

Dolly remained healthy until February 2003 when an animal care worker reported that he had noted Dolly coughing. Full veterinary examinations and blood tests were conducted and a scan confirmed tumours were growing in Dolly’s lung. Dolly died on 14th February 2003.