Is it only a matter of time before there are thousands of copies of you running about confusing everybody?
A clone is an exact copy of another plant or animal: the genes in both organisms are identical. Dolly, the first sheep to make history, was born on 5 July 1996 at the Roslin Institute in Scotland.
Animals had been cloned before using cells from embryos, but Dolly was cloned from a cell in an adult animal. Scientists at Roslin had taken an egg from a sheep, all the genetic material, and replaced it with a cell from Dolly’s mum.
This sounds like an awful lot of trouble to go to just for a sheep, after all, there are millions of the creatures and they all look exactly the same anyway. The point of cloning isn’t to make identical sheep, though, it’s to make it easier to produce animals or plants with particular characteristics.
If animals were bred in the usual way, this would take a lot longer than with cloning. For example, sheep have been genetically engineered through cloning to produce human insulin.
In the future, animals could be produced to provide human spare parts, like hearts, kidneys and livers. Another benefit of cloning might be to breed endangered animals: an Asian ox called a gaur was born to an ordinary cow in Iowa, USA, as a result of cloning.
So you think you haven’t been cloned – but since there are six billion people in the world, it would be impossible to know for sure. Not only could your double be out there somewhere, but identity theft means they might steal your name too.
Not surprisingly, cloning is the subject of heated debate. Goodbye, Dolly! Dolly died at the age of six, half the usual lifespan of a sheep, suffering from cancer and arthritis. It’s not known if her early death was due to the fact she was cloned. Dolly was named after country-and-western singer Dolly Parton.