25 years after Dolly the sheep, animal cloning hasn’t kept its promise

25 years ago, the world discovered the existence of Dolly, the sheep cloned by a team of Scottish scientists. This progress was then a bearer of hope. But today research around cloning is at a standstill in Europe.

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On February 23, 1997, Dolly appeared on the front page of television news. “Contrary to appearances, it is not a sheep like the others”, explains the journalist at the time. Because Dolly was cloned by a team of Scottish scientists. A first, never a mammal had been cloned before.

The sheep was born seven months earlier but Scottish scientists kept it a secret before announcing it. “It was a paradigm shift”, says Pascale Chavatte-Palmer, research director in developmental biology at the Institute for Agricultural Research (Inra). She worked on cloning at the time of Dolly but also of Marguerite, who came to her attention a year later in France. This is the first cloned calf.

The food industry then became aware of the potential of this technology. “I remember in the early 2000s I went to Australiasays the INRA researcher. There was a wild hope of a team in Sydney who wanted to re-clone very good bulls and distribute them all over Australia. The idea was to reproduce the best individuals and then do sexual reproduction.”

Then come horses, goats, cloned rabbits…. Enough to advance research on cell reprogramming, genetics or aging. But the limits appear very quickly. “These clones weren’t growing very wellexplains Pascale Chavatte-Palmer. We had either embryonic losses, or abortions or stillbirths.”

An ethical problem that pushes Europe to adopt a moratorium on cloning. Then the researchers come up against another obstacle, explains the researcher: “We realized that these animals were not identical.” A shame scientists realize that cloned animals also inherit part of the DNA of the surrogate mother even if the nucleus of the oocyte has been removed.

“If you are a cow breeder and you want to clone a bull that produces a lot of meat and you realize that his clone does not have the same characteristics, that bothers you.”

Pascale Chavatte-Palmer, INRA

at franceinfo

Today, the breeding of cloned animals is prohibited in Europe but other countries resort to it. Some companies in Asia in particular even offer to clone your pet for a few thousand dollars.

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