The 20th Anniversary of the Cloning of Dolly


By Tyra Hall-Pogar, PhD
Full-Time Faculty, Department of Science, School of General Education

Over 20 years ago we were first introduced to Dolly when on July 5, 1996, the first cloning of a mammal was successful (Einsiedel et al., 2002). Dolly was a sheep and the first to be cloned from the DNA found in an adult cell and her name is now synonymous with cloning. During Dolly’s 8-year life she was able to do all of the “normal” things associated with life including giving birth, but unfortunately, she suffered from symptoms and diseases indicative of an animal much older in age such as lung disease and arthritis. 

Her early death generated another wave of concern. Many wondered if cloning had hit a dead-end. It was determined that Dolly had shortened telomeres—sections of DNA found at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres have been extensively studied for their role in aging. Further research and experimentation have taught us that telomeres can actually be restored in the cloning process and that Dolly most likely suffered from a different form of premature aging (Giles & Knight, 2003).

From the first announcement of Dolly’s birth, this impressive genetic feat has been the fuel for many dialogues throughout our society. Cloning has been heralded as a huge breakthrough that could lead to advances in regenerative medicine and treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The other side of this contentious debate asks questions about how we will approach this new found ability to control nature. The last 20 years has seen additional cloning experiments with the successful and efficient cloning of cows, horses, and mice—but no humans. We have seen other significant advances as science has marched on, such as the cultivation of human embryonic stems cells. This feat, once again, caused a media circus and increased fears of crossing ethical boundaries. 

In the end, these happenings have generated many debates and conversations. It has also led to more research, and as the wheels of science continue to turn, it will be left to historians to look back and judge the enormity of these accomplishments. So in closing, if you are ever in Scotland, take a moment to visit with Dolly and reflect on just some of the amazing feats that science has accomplished (Wadman, 2007). Dolly is currently on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.


Einsiedel, E., Allansdottir, A., Allum, N., Bauer, M.W., Berthomier, A., Chatjouli, A., de Cheveigné, S., Downey, R., Gutteling, J.M., Kohring, M., Leonarz, M., Manzoli, F., Olofsson, A., Przestalski, A., Rusanen, T., Seifert, F., Stathopoulou, A., Wagner, W. (2002). Brave new sheep: the clone named Dolly. Biotechnology: the making of a global controversy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giles, J., & Knight, J. (2003). Dolly's death leaves researchers woolly on clone ageing issue. Nature, 421(6925), 776-776.

Wadman, M. (2007). Cloning Special: Dolly: A Decade On. Nature, 445(7130), 800-801.