July 5 marks the anniversary of the first successful cloning of a mammal. Dolly, the well known clone sheep, was born to a surrogate ewe this day in 1996. Adult stem cells were taken from a ewe, then
cultured in a lab using microscopic needles, in a method first used in human fertility treatments in the 1970s. After producing a number of normal eggs, scientists implanted them into surrogate ewes; 148 days later one of them gave birth to Dolly.
When Dolly’s birth was announced, supporters touted the many benefits of cloning technology, and scientists have since made great strides toward realizing those benefits. Consider some examples:
- In a recent TOS blog post, Michael LaFerrara applauded the scientists at Oregon Health & Science University for their breakthrough in somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technology, which could eventually be used to provide replacement cells for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
- Using SCNT technology, scientists in Japan have successfully cloned a mouse from a mere drop of blood. This method is non-invasive and leaves the donor intact, potentially allowing for future cloning of exceptionally productive milk cows or other high-output farm animals.
- In 2003, the first clone of an extinct animal was born, a Spanish goat called a Pyrenean Ibex that went extinct in 2000. There is talk now of reviving other iconic species.
Imagine all the possibilities of advancement using cloning that still lie ahead, waiting to be discovered by the men and women of science.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons