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Cloning Sickness

January 17, 2006

Many cloned animals have unusual health problems. One listener asked what goes wrong.


Concerns about cloning. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, developed arthritis early and died young of a lung disease more common in older animals. Some other clones have suffered similar fates. Listener Jessica Ruvinsky of Palo Alto, California, asked us why.

We turned to geneticist Rob Martienssen of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He says the problems likely come from chemicals that latch onto DNA over an organism’s life and cause harmful changes. In sexual reproduction, these changes get "reset", but the cloning process leaves some of them behind.

ROB MARTIENSSEN (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory):
So you end up with these changes having been inherited in a way that wouldn’t happen if it went through the normal process of reproduction.

If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.