Dolly the sheep health fears 'unfounded'

Dolly the split

GETTYDolly's disease being a result of cloning has been hotly denied

When the world's first cloned animal died in 2003 at the age of six, many suspected the cloning process put Dolly into an early grave.

In fact, wear-and-tear in her joints was similar to that of other sheep of her age, regardless of how they were conceived, say researchers.

At the time scientists believed that genetic problems caused by the cloning process had led Dolly to age more quickly, leading her to develop painful osteoarthritis.

Dolly the sheep
GETTYDolly the sheep was the first animal cloned from an adult cell

Kevin Sinclair, professor of developmental biology in the School of Biosciences in Nottingham, said: "Our findings of previous year appeared to be at odds with original concerns surrounding the nature and extent of osteoarthritis in Dolly who was perceived to have aged prematurely".

Researchers gained access to the bones of Dolly, now housed at the National Museum of Scotland, but also those of her offspring Bonnie, as well as two other cloned sheep, Megan and Morag (two sheep cloned from non-adult cells who were prototypes for Dolly).

But a new X-ray examination of Dolly's skeleton found no evidence of abnormal arthritis.

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Since none of Dolly's X-rays survived, the researchers X-rayed her skeleton.

The ewes were older than Dolly, at eight years, prompting researchers to re-examine Dolly's case.

It turns out that the findings in Dolly were not unexpected, given her age.

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"As a result we conclude that the original concerns that cloning had caused early-onset osteoarthritis in Dolly were unfounded".

Prof Corr, of Glasgow University, said: "We found that the prevalence and distribution of radiographic-osteoarthritis was similar to that observed in naturally conceived sheep, and our healthy aged cloned sheep".

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