Scientists in Scotland have created the first clone of an adult animal. Dolly the lamb is an exact genetic replica of an adult sheep, and has revolutionised animal breeding.

Dolly the lamb was born by cloning on 5 July 1996.

The world’s press gathered to meet Dolly, the most famous lamb in the world.  She was grown from a single cell, taken from a donor sheep, revolutionising the breeding of animals.  

To create Dolly, scientists in Edinburgh took a single cell from a donor sheep and removed the genetic material from it.  The genes were then inserted into an empty egg cell taken from another sheep.  The egg was then implanted in a surrogate mother.  The resulting lamb, Dolly, was identical to the sheep from which the single cell was taken.  The same process could be used to create hundreds of lambs.  

Scientists have already moved on to the next stage of genetically modifying the cells.  This means that they can produce animals which will produce therapeutic products in their milk to treat illnesses and diseases in people.

Now that an adult animal has been cloned, is it just a matter of time before someone tries to clone a human being?  Professor of Genetics in TCD, Dr David McConnell, does not think this is possible, 

In many countries the cloning of humans is illegal, one is not even allowed to think in terms of doing it, and that’s quite proper, but secondly, scientists and doctors worldwide are in general agreement that this is not something that is worthwhile doing, there’s no reason to do it.

That does not mean that science cannot be abused, but it has brought the issue of cloning out of science fiction and closer to home.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 24 February 1997. The reporter is Margaret Ward.