• Question: How do you know that by using DNA to clone things that you are not generating even more problems? For instance, Dolly the cloned sheep died early from progressive lung disease and severe arthritis. Do you think there could be a connection with her being cloned and dying early?

    Asked by Aimee to Barbara, Matt, Sophie, Tristan on 18 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Tristan Smith

      Tristan Smith answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      So the kind of ‘cloning’ that we do is very different from the kind of ‘cloning’ that was used to make Dolly. In todays language we would refer to the science done with Dolly along the lines of In Vitro Fertilisation and Stem Cell manipulation. There was no classical cloning done to Dolly, which is where we move genes around, etc. The problem with trying to do things like Dolly is the fact that because of the cells used to make her, when she was born her cells were technically the same age as the original parent Dolly, we knew much less about the molecular processes in cellular ageing then.

    • Photo: Barbara Shih

      Barbara Shih answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      That’s an interesting question. They noticed that some cloned mammals have shorter telomere (these DNA structure protect the ends of chromosome and decreases with age). As we do not currently know exactly why we age, it’s possible that clones are more prone to aging due to shorter telomere. If telomere is the problem, it is possible to extend telomere. One of the drugs that has been used more recently to improve cloning (Trichostatin A) was found to help increasing telomere length. In addition, first cloned cattle (Amy) had normal telomere length and (from the information I could find) is at least 10 years old.

      While I think it is possible there is a connection between cloning and premature aging, I also think it’s a problem that there should be solution to.

    • Photo: Matthew Moore

      Matthew Moore answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      Oh definitely, with Dolly the sheep there was a number of problems with earlier attempts too. This is why cloning humans won’t and shouldn’t really happen! Plus there would probably be all manner of ethical questions surrounding the clones rights!

      The technologies have improved significantly since Dolly the sheep though and a number of other animals have been cloned. The technology will only improve and also pre-natal diagnostics for any potential problems.