Clones, Clones, Everywhere

December 9, 2016
COURTESY NATHAN NEWMAN

Twenty years ago, a sheep was cloned. Since then, cloning has become a big business. How far can cloning go?

Dolly the sheep was born on July 5, 1996. And history was made. Dolly was the first successfully cloned mammal. Scientists used DNA from a sheep to create an identical copy of it. DNA is the chemical that carries the structure of a living thing.

Scientist Ian Wilmut led the team that cloned Dolly.

MAURICE MCDONALD—AP

After Dolly, many people thought that human cloning would soon follow. But the technology for it still does not exist. Many countries, including Britain, France, and Germany, do not allow human cloning. The U.S. has no federal laws against it. But any attempt to do so would need approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

“It’s dangerous and irresponsible to try to clone identical copies of people,” scientist Robert Lanza told TFK. “Cloning is associated with a lot of abnormalities and genetic defects.”

Cloning other species, however, has become a business. Scientists believe the knowledge gained from research will lead to even more advances.

Dolly’s four genetic sisters stand in a field in Nottingham, England.

UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

A Dog’s Life

The loss of a beloved dog can be heartbreaking. Through cloning, the animal can live again—sort of. “Genetically speaking, a pet owner cannot find another dog that is more like the original than a clone,” Jae Woong Wang says. He is a researcher at Sooam Biotech. It is a lab in South Korea. Since 2005, Sooam has cloned hundreds of animals.

Laura Jacques and Richard Remde, of West Yorkshire, England, paid Sooam $100,000 to clone their boxer, Dylan. The dog died in June 2015. He was 8 years old. After Dylan’s death, the couple sent samples of his DNA to Sooam. The lab produced two clones. Chance and Shadow were born in December 2015. “They look so much like Dylan,” Jacques says. “Their personalities are very similar to his, as well.”

Shadow, left, and Chance are clones. They are among the first cloned dogs in England.

COURTESY NATHAN NEWMAN

The Future of Cloning

In the U.S., cloning cattle, pigs, and sheep is common. It allows farmers to improve the quality of their herd. Scientists say cloning could also be used to save endangered species from extinction. It may even be a way to bring back an extinct animal, like the woolly mammoth. Researchers at Sooam are working toward that goal.

Dolly the sheep died in 2003. She had developed lung disease. But a new study says her four “sisters” are doing well. Daisy, Diana, Debbie, and Denise were created nine years ago. Scientists used cells of the same sheep from which Dolly was cloned.

Scientist Kevin Sinclair led the study. He notes that the cloning process has not yet been perfected. Some clones develop issues with their organs. But experts are working to solve these problems. “There is good reason,” Sinclair says, “to believe that they will do so in the future.”