"Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind." -Jeffrey Eugenides

Those who dedicate their lives to studying biology to uncover more essential information about the world we live in deserve commendation for their sacrifice. Without the findings of gifted scientists, we would know every little about things such as how planet earth works, how animals act, and what we can do to preserve the future.

Some of the most remarkable experts in biology include Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell who industriously discovered mammal cloning and introduced us to Dolly the sheep.

Who is Ian Wilmut?

"The pressures of human cloning are powerfu; but, although it seems likely that somebody, at some time, will attempt it, we need not assume that it will ever become a common or significant feature of human life." -Ian Wilmut

Born in 1944 in Hampton Lucy, United Kingdom, Ian Wilmut is a British biologist who received a lot of acclaim and recognition throughout his lifetime. His early years consisted of dreaming about a career in the navy and, on the weekends, working as a farmhand.

Although unable to complete his lifelong wish of joining the naval forces due to his colourblindness, his love from animals was established while working on the farm. He decided to study Agriculture at the University of Nottingham.

Wilmut's formative years' critical period was when he worked in the laboratory for six weeks with Christopher Polge who was credited with developing the technique of cryopreservation; a biological field of study that was not widely known at the time.  Reviewing cryopreservation with Polge influenced Wilmut significantly and to complete his Doctorate of Philosophy, he wrote a thesis about semen cryopreservation.

After Ian Wilmut's university years were completed, he worked at the Roslin Institute in Scotland researching gametes and embryogenesis.

However, the leading scientific break that deemed him worthy of being appointed as an OBE in 1999 and knighted in 2008 was what he and his team discovered in 1996. What was that discovery? Dolly the Sheep. Nonetheless, it is essential to state that Ian Wilmut was not alone, and he had help from another brilliant biologist named Keith Campbell. Keep on reading to find out more!

Who was Keith Campbell?

scientists working together
The careful research of Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell at The Roslin Institute to clone Dolly was revolutionary. (Source: Unsplash)

"Scientists are asked to referee a lot of papers and to a certain extent we have to believe each other as to the validity of the data." -Keith Campbell

Born in Birmingham, UK, Keith Campbell spent the first years of his life in Scotland, until moving back to his hometown to finish his education. After developing an interest in science, Keith Campbell acquired a Bachelor's in microbiology from the Queen Elizabeth College, University of London.

Following the continued success in microbiology, in 1983, Campbell received the Marie Curie Research Scholarship; this grant made it possible for him to further his postgrad studies. After a period of diligent research, Campbell received his PhD from the University of Sussex.

Through his years of research in biology, Keith Campbell developed an appreciation and sincere curiosity for animal cloning; he wondered if it could be done through the modification of cells and genes. Campbell was inspired to genetic research engineering by pioneers in the sector and, in 1991, he joined the Roslin Institute.

The Roslin Institute was an important centre of research and study for biologists who wanted to push the boundaries and discover if an animal could be cloned through manipulation of genes. At Roslin, Campbell met Wilmut, and they began to work on the same team. In 1995, Campbell and another biologist, Bill Ritchie, completed a breakthrough by successfully producing a pair of lambs in a laboratory setting.

While extremely admirable and impressive, the 1995 scientific breakthrough of Campbell and Wilmut pales compared to what they were able to do with dolly the sheep.

The Mindblowing Biological Experiment of Dolly, the Sheep

When we talk about fantastic developments in science and technology that have changed our world in the last 10, 20, 30, or 50 years, we can't help but be filled with wonder at how far we have come as a global civilisation.

However, when it comes to noteworthy biological discoveries, we can't help but mention the cloning research behind Dolly the Sheep that was completed in the 1990s at The Roslin Institute. Ian Wilmut and his team, including Keith Campbell, worked tirelessly to see if it were possible to create genetically modified livestock without using too many live animals for future testing.

Was their research successful? Absolutely! In 1996, after a few years of testing genetically modified cells to see if a whole new animal could be created through manipulation, Dolly the Sheep was created. It is essential to state that many experts from various sectors were needed due to the research's nature. For example, different specialists such as biologists, embryologists, surgeons, vets, and additional staff took part in the "Dolly Experiment" of 1996.

The saying, "it takes a village" couldn't be more true in the Dolly the Sheep cloning!

It is essential to state that although Ian Wilmut was the team leader and many additional experts, Wilmut claims that Keith Campbell was responsible for 66% of the "Dolly Project." Campbell's intrigue and hard-work paid off!

Nonetheless, how exactly was Dolly created, and why was it so crucial to the field of science? Let's analyse and answer those questions together!

How Was Dolly Created

diagram of cloning
Thanks to this beautiful diagram, we can better understand the steps taken to clone Dolly the sheep. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

For many years scientists were fascinated by the possibility of cloning a living being. However, throughout time, there arose many complications and confusions surrounding the timing of cell differentiation and the various changes of an animal's DNA throughout their life.

Disclaimer: we'll try to explain this situation in the simplest scientific language possible! 

Nonetheless, Dolly was different. Through Ian Wilmut's guidance, the cloning team at The Roslin Institute used a mammary gland cell taken from an adult Finn Dorset sheep. The process used to clone Dolly is known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.

The process started with the mammary gland cell, and by using electrical pulse, the cell was joined to the removed nucleus. The mammary cell nucleus was transferred into the egg cell. The cell had to be induced not to follow the normal growth cycle and enter a dormant phase. To accomplish this, the cells were starved of nutrients.

The cells and the host egg cytoplasms were eventually joined together, and they successfully created embryos. The embryos were later introduced into surrogate mothers. Under the guidance of vets and animal experts, the Scottish Blackface sheep was chosen as a surrogate mother. Was the embryo part successful?

Thirteen distinct embryos were introduced into 13 different Scottish Blackface ewes and, eventually, one became pregnant. After 148 days, the gestation period of an adult female sheep, Dolly was born!

When considering the facts, Dolly had three mothers, one who provided the egg, and provided DNA. Lastly, her surrogate mother, who patiently carried cloned Dolly until she was born.

The Importance of Dolly

Some might wonder, was all the time, energy, and resources well spent to create Dolly? Was she that important? The short answer is a resounding YES!

It is worth stating that no scientific research should ever be viewed as invalid and of lesser importance. In the case of Dolly, it was significant because she was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell; it had never been done before. The successful embryo creation, gestation period, and birth demonstrated to biologists that specialised cells could be used to create an exact copy of the animal they came from.

The research team involved in the cloning of Dolly the Sheep opened the door to many possibilities in the field of biology and medicine. The development of iPS cells, personalised stem cells, was further studied and discovered due to Dolly's success story.

The Life and Legacy of Dolly

reporters are savage
Although a bit different than the media techniques of today, when Dolly the sheep was announced to the public in 1997, the press had a frenzy and took many photographs. (Source: Unsplash)

Born on the 5 of July 1996, Dolly was named after country music legend Dolly Parton and was viewed by all in the scientific sector as a fantastic miracle. And, though Dolly was not the first mammal ever cloned, she was the first created from an adult cell; a feat that was seen as impossible at the time.

It is vital to state that Dolly was kept secret from the world for a little more than six months, and when her existence was announced to the media, she became an instant celebrity.

Various media outlets covered the Dolly story, and everyone wanted to take her photograph. A notable magazine cover was the special report covered by Time. Dolly lived at the Roslin Institute in Scotland for her entire life and apart from a few media outings once and while she lived a very ordinary existence with other sheep.

Dolly had a total of six lambs in her life with a Welsh ram named David. After the birth of her last offspring, she developed some health problems such as arthritis and, sadly, in early 2003, veterinarians discovered tumours in her lungs from a CT scan. To have her avoid any pain, doctors euthanised Dolly on February 14, 2003, at six. Dolly sheep died much sooner than others of her species; however, research has shown that this in no way is since she was cloned.

Throughout the years, albeit impressed by the team's brilliant efforts at The Roslin Institute, many intellectuals and journalists used the Dolly experiment to spark a cloning debate and whether there were more benefits or drawbacks. After Dolly, other sheep were cloned. To this day, scientists are still working to uncover information about genetic manipulation and whether it is possible to clone other mammals, including humans.

In conclusion, one thing is for sure, the hard work of Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell to clone Dolly was and continues to be an extraordinary feat in the world of biology. Good job, sirs!

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