Tribute to Sir Ian Wilmut: Dolly the Sheep Creator Passes at 79

Tribute to Sir Ian Wilmut: Dolly the Sheep Creator Passes at 79

Dolly, a female Finn-Dorset sheep, was the first animal cloned from an adult somatic cell and lived from 5 July 1996 to 14 February 2003. She was created using nuclear transfer from a mammary gland cell by employees of the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Her cloning demonstrated that a mature cell from a particular body component might be used to create a cloned creature. Despite what the general public thinks, she wasn’t the first mammal to be cloned.

John Gurdon’s groundbreaking work, which involved using adult somatic cells instead of embryonic stem cells to clone African clawed frogs in 1958, laid the groundwork for this practice. 

He had numerous lambs and spent her entire life at the Roslin Institute. Due to a developing lung condition, she was put to sleep at six. No explanation connected her cloning to the illness.

The Roslin Institute in Scotland conserved His remains and presented them to the National Museum of Scotland, where it has been displayed often since 2003.


Keith Campbell, Ian Wilmut, and other team members at the Roslin Institute, a division of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and the nearby biotechnology business PPL Therapeutics created Dolly by cloning. Dolly’s cloning was made possible thanks to financing from PPL Therapeutics and the Ministry of Agriculture. She was born on July 5, 1996, and passed away on February 14, 2003, due to a progressive lung condition that was thought to be unconnected to the fact that she was a clone. She has been referred to as “the world’s most famous sheep”.

The generation of a healthy clone demonstrated that a cell obtained from a particular section of the body could duplicate an entire human since the mammary gland provided the donor cell that was utilized to clone Dolly. “Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell,” Wilmut said of the name Dolly, “and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s.”


On July 5, 1996, Dolly was born. She had three mothers: one who gave her the egg, another who gave her the DNA, and a third who carried the cloned embryo to term. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, which involves transferring the cell nucleus from an adult cell into an unfertilized oocyte (developing egg cell), is used to make her.

After receiving an electric shock to encourage division, the hybrid cell divides into a blastocyst, which is subsequently implanted in a surrogate mother. He was the first clone created from an adult mammal’s cell. A fully differentiated somatic cell’s ability to return to an embryonic totipotent state and produce a cell that can later grow into any animal component was demonstrated with the creation of Dolly.

On February 22, 1997, He‘s existence was made known to the general public. The media covered it extensively. A television ad featuring Scottish scientists interacting with sheep aired, and Dolly was the subject of a special Time magazine piece. Dolly was named the year’s breakthrough by Science. Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, albeit she was not the first animal to be cloned in general.


Dolly the sheep scientist Sir Ian Wilmut passes away at 79
|The method used to create “Dolly” the sheep.

He spent her entire life at the Midlothian-based Roslin Institute. There, she was coupled with a Welsh Mountain ram, resulting in a litter of six lambs. In April 1998, Bonnie, her first lamb, was born. Sally and Rosie, twin lambs, were born the following year. 2000 Lucy, Darcy, and Cotton, triplets, were born to Dolly. At the age of four, He began to walk stiffly and had arthritis in late 2001. Drugs that treat inflammation were used to treat this.


He was put to death on February 14, 2003, because of a developing respiratory condition and severe arthritis. Dolly, a Finn Dorset, should have survived about 11 to 12 years, but she only did so for 6.5 of them. A post-mortem study revealed she had ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma, commonly known as Jaagsiekte, a lung cancer type that affects sheep and is brought on by the retrovirus JSRV.

Roslin researchers said they did not believe Dolly’s status as a clone had anything to do with the fact that other sheep in the same flock had also perished from the same illness. Sheep housed indoors are more vulnerable to such lung conditions, therefore Dolly was forced to spend the night indoors for safety reasons.

Some in the media conjectured that Dolly’s demise may have been caused by the possibility that she was born with a genetic age of six years, the same age as the sheep from whom she was cloned. This hypothesis was supported, among other things, by the observation that Dolly’s telomeres were short, which is generally a sign of aging. According to The Roslin Institute, Dolly’s extensive health assessment showed no anomalies that may have resulted from prolonged age.

Four of the thirteen cloned sheep from the same cell line as Dolly were included in the 2016 report of no problems in cloned sheep. Except for a few minor cases of osteoarthritis, the authors of the first study to examine the long-term health effects of cloning found no evidence of late-onset, non-communicable diseases and came to the following conclusion: “We could find no evidence, therefore, of a detrimental long-term effect of cloning by SCNT on the health of aged offspring among our cohort.”

Dolly’s corpse was taxidermically preserved when she passed away and is now on exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.


Following the successful generation of sheep, several additional big animals, including pigs, deer, horses, and bulls were cloned. No viable embryos were created during the effort to clone argali (mountain sheep). Both attempts to clone a banteng bull and mouflon (a type of wild sheep) were more successful and produced healthy progeny. Because the reprogramming that cells must undergo during cloning is imperfect, nuclear transfer embryos frequently display aberrant development. Cloning mammals proved incredibly ineffective; in 1996, out of 277 tries, only Dolly the lamb reached maturity. 

Chinese scientists were reportedly cloning pigs with a success rate of 70–80% by 2014, while in 2016, a Korean business named Sooam Biotech was churning out 500 cloned embryos per day. Dolly’s creator, Wilmut, stated in 2007 that the nuclear transfer method might never be effective enough to be used on people.

Dolly the sheep scientist Sir Ian Wilmut passes away at 79
|Dolly meets the world’s media.

The preservation of endangered species and the potential revival of extinct species may both benefit from cloning. The Pyrenean ibex, a species of wild mountain goat declared extinct in 2000, was cloned by researchers at the Centre of Food Technology and Research of Aragon in northern Spain in January 2009. It is the first time an ancient animal has been cloned. While the baby ibex perished soon after birth owing to physical problems in its lungs, it may open possibilities for saving endangered and recently extinct animals by reviving them from frozen tissue.

Daisy, Debbie, Dianna, and Denise, four nine-year-old Dolly clones that are exact replicas of one another, were all in good health in July 2016.

In 2016, Scientific American concluded that Dolly’s primary contribution to science was not animal cloning but rather advancements in stem cell research. Following the success of Dolly, scientists discovered that regular cells could be converted into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into any tissue.

In January 2018, researchers revealed the first successful cloning of a primate species using the same technique as Dolly. In late 2017, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, two identical macaque monkey clones produced by Chinese scientists, were born.

This technology, along with the gene-editing CRISPR-Cas9 approach purportedly employed by He Jiankui to create the first-ever gene-modified human infants, Lulu and Nana, were both disclosed in January 2019 by scientists in China. The cloned monkeys were made to research various medical conditions.

Why was Dolly so important?

Because Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell, she was significant. The fact that she was born demonstrated how unique cells may be utilized to produce an identical replica of the animal they originated from. The discovery of iPS cells, or individualized pluripotent stem cells, pushed the boundaries of what scientists thought was possible and created a wealth of new opportunities in biology and medicine.

However, Dolly was not the first animal to ever be cloned. That distinction goes to a different sheep that was cloned from an embryo cell and was born in Cambridge, UK, in 1984.

Six more sheep, cloned from embryonic and fetal cells, were born at Roslin at the same time as Dolly. Megan and Morag, two other sheep, had also been cloned from embryonic cells cultured in the lab at The Roslin Institute in 1995. Dolly’s creation from an adult cell, which no one at the time believed was feasible, was what made her so unique.

Dolly’s life:

On February 22, 1997, Dolly made her public debut to a flurry of media coverage. To coincide with the release of the academic paper that details the experiments that led to her creation, the Roslin team decided to make the announcement now. Dolly captivated the public’s attention—no mean accomplishment for a sheep—and prompted a discussion about the potential advantages and risks of cloning.

The Roslin Institute got 3,000 phone calls in the week that followed the news. When was a year old, a DNA examination revealed that her telomeres were shorter than those of a typical sheep her age. The ‘caps’ on the ends of DNA molecules known as telomeres shield the DNA from harm. Telomeres gradually shorten with aging in both animals and humans, increasing the risk of DNA damage.

Dolly’s telomeres are believed to have been shorter since her DNA originated from an adult sheep and they had not fully replaced during her maturation. Dolly might have been ‘older’ than she was as a result. However, thorough health examinations of Dolly at the time revealed no disorders that may be directly linked to rapid or premature aging.

He lived her whole life at The Roslin Institute, where, aside from the odd media appearance, she enjoyed a typical existence with the other sheep. He gave birth to a total of six lambs throughout the years with a Welsh Mountain ram named David. Bonnie, their first lamb, was born in April 1998. Twins Sally and Rosie and triplets Lucy, Darcy, and Cotton were born the following year.

It was revealed that Dolly had contracted the lung cancer-causing Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus (JSRV) after giving birth to her final lambs in September 2000. The same epidemic of JSRV has also affected other sheep at The Roslin Institute.

Dolly’s arthritic condition was identified in 2001 when farm workers observed she was walking awkwardly. Anti-inflammatory drugs were effective in treating this, even though the origin of the arthritis was never identified.

Until she started coughing in February 2003, Dolly had a normal quality of life. Dolly spent her whole life at The Roslin Institute, where she had an ordinary life with the other sheep, except for the occasional media appearance. Over the years, Dolly gave birth to a total of six lambs with a Welsh Mountain ram named David. In April 1998, Bonnie, their first lamb, was born. The next year saw the birth of triplets Lucy, Darcy, and Cotton, along with the twins Sally and Rosie.

Where is Dolly now?

Dolly the sheep scientist Sir Ian Wilmut passes away at 79
|The National Museum of Scotland.

Her body was presented by The Roslin Institute to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh after her passing, and since then, she has grown to be one of the museum’s most well-liked displays. He is now again on display in the museum following a significant gallery renovation, coupled with an interactive exhibit on the morality of producing transgenic animals that features recent research from The Roslin Institute.

He announced his retirement in 2012 and his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2018. In 2016, on the eve of Dolly’s 20th birthday, Wilmut told reporters that stem cell research may be 20 years behind if not for Dolly.

However, he acknowledged that he had been “over-enthusiastic” about how quickly stem cell treatments might benefit patients and stated the possibility of their widespread usage to treat degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s was probably “decades away”.

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