CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Revealed – why the cloned sheep was named after Dolly Parton
Dolly: The Sheep that Changed the World
Walking with Monica Galetti
Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever created by cloning, is such a celebrity in Roslin, south of Edinburgh, the local cafe is called Dolly’s Tea Room.
I hope they serve lambington sponges. And woolsh cakes.
Don’t blame me for those terrible puns. Blame science. The unexpectedly hilarious documentary Dolly: The Sheep That Changed The World (BBC2) was crammed full of bad gags from the labs.
Even her name was a joke — chosen because Dolly was cloned with a cell taken from an adult sheep’s mammaries. Mention mammaries and, when the white-coated bio-technicians have stopped sniggering, they’ll start singing Dolly Parton numbers.
The country music queen took this dubious compliment in good part. ‘There’s no such thing as baaa-d publicity,’ she said. (‘Y’all know it costs a lot of money to look this sheep . . .’ she might have added)
The unexpectedly hilarious documentary Dolly: The Sheep That Changed The World (BBC2) was crammed full of bad gags from the labs
Dolly, who was the world’s first cloned sheep, lived to be only six years old, about half the span of an average sheep
Like her namesake, Dolly — created from an ovum fused with mammary cells via a hypodermic needle — was a bit of a diva, thrilled by her fame. ‘Gosh, did she know she was beautiful,’ said embryologist Karen Walker, who wielded the needle and thus called herself Dolly’s dad.
‘If she’d had a lipstick, she would have put it on for the reporters. She’d literally fluff herself up.’
Karen has a framed scrap of wool, salvaged from the day the world champion sheep shearer came to give Dolly a trim.
‘It’ll end up on the Antiques Roadshow,’ she predicts. For all the pioneering science that led to cloning, Roslin Institute was an endearingly eccentric establishment.
When Karen transferred putative embryos from the lab to the farm, where vets implanted them into the wombs of ewes, she kept the cells at body temperature by tucking them under her bra strap.
Animal rights protesters objected to the experiments. One group, outraged that science might end natural reproduction, threatened to strip off and have sex on the lab lawns. ‘Unfortunately,’ sighed a boffin, ‘it never happened.’
For a while, cloning seemed to be the future of the human race. One man contacted the Roslin team, begging them to clone his fiancee, who had died before their wedding. Gently, the scientists explained they could, in theory, do this — but his bride would be a baby.
Dolly lived to be only six years old, about half the span of an average sheep. She was overweight when she died, spoilt and cossetted by visitors, who all wanted to give her treats.
Beside this constant flow of witticism, the chatter of TV presenter and chef Monica Galetti seemed banal and dull
‘Look at that,’ she kept saying, stopping to take in the view. But of course we were looking at it — we were watching the programme
Today, she is stuffed and on display at the National Museum of Scotland. Well, it’s better than ending up as a leg of mutton.
But spare a thought for her predecessor, a genetically engineered ewe whose milk contained human hormones. Her name was Tracy. And there were triplets all called Polly. The world didn’t give a bleat about them.
The Pollys also produced human hormones, used in medical treatments. Asked why sheep were suitable for these experiments, one scientist mused: ‘You could do it in mice . . . but you’d have to milk an awful lot of mice.’
Beside this constant flow of witticism, the chatter of TV presenter and chef Monica Galetti seemed banal and dull, on Walking With . . . (BBC2).
As she hiked across the North York Moors, from Chimney Bank to Church House, her breathless conversation consisted entirely of remarks like: ‘I honestly can’t remember the last time I was alone taking a walk like this.’
‘Look at that,’ she kept saying, stopping to take in the view. But of course we were looking at it — we were watching the programme. The producers should send some scientists next time. At least we’d get a few jokes.
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