Which is the most famous sheep in the world? A sheep called Dolly. But why is Dolly famous?
That is because unlike other sheep’s, Dolly was not born in the usual manner. She is actually a carbon copy of her mother, like an identical twin. This means that she is the twin sister of her mother who is older by six years and she does not have a father!
Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, UK, made history on 27th February 1997, when they successfully cloned a sheep. So what is cloning?
We all have fathers and mothers, in fact all the animals we know of have them too. A clone, however, does not need to have both the parents.
The miracle molecule: DNA
Our bodies are made up of cells which have information to go about their work in the form of DNA or de-oxy-ribo-nucleic-acid. This is called the genetic code. Every organism gets half of this information from the father and the other half from the mother.
We all have grown from a single cell which contains these two parts of the DNA. It is called the egg cell. It divides millions of times to give rise to the millions of cells which form our body.
And each cell has a copy of all the genetic information needed by the body. This means that each cell of our body has enough information to create other human beings like us. All we need is an egg cell.
In the process of cloning, the scientists extract the DNA from an animal cell and implant it into an egg cell taken from another animal. Before implanting it, the DNA of the recipient cell is removed.
This is how Dolly’s life began – from a single cell taken from the udder of her mother. The DNA in her mother’s cell was removed and transferred into the egg cell of another sheep. Five months later, Dolly was born and is now a healthy lamb, a clone of her mother (from whom her DNA was taken) – and without a biological father.
It is technologically possible to clone humans as well. We might have clones of supermodels and great scientists. What if someone creates a clone of Hitler? Since it is possible, someone, somewhere must be attempting it already.
However, all we are doing is tinkering with the natural world and its processes. As we have learnt from the story of the Jurassic Park, we might lose control over the situation after a point. Is there a disaster waiting to happen?