Friday, November 24, 2017

Clearing Dolly: Radiographs of taxidermied sheep clone's remains investigate osteoarthritis, aging

We were warned. Almost 20 years ago, skeptics and opponents of the cloning of horses and other livestock forecast musculoskeletal calamities and weaknesses. It seemed like the prophecies of doom had come true back in 2003, when reports circulated that Dolly, the famous (and first) ewe cloned  in 1996, suffered from what might be considered premature aging, in the form of osteoarthritis (OA).

Now, researchers in the United Kingdom are about to clear Dolly's name and show additional evidence of normal aging in the tribe of university-cloned sheep that followed her.

Reports in 2003 that Dolly, the first animal cloned from adult cells, was suffering from osteoarthritis at the age of 5½ led to considerable scientific concern and media debate over the possibility of early-onset age-related diseases in cloned animals.

Dolly, the world's first cloned mammal from an adult cell, is on display at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. (Creative Commons file image via Wikimedia)

However, the only formal record of OA in the original Dolly was a brief mention in a conference abstract; it reported that Dolly had OA of the left knee. In the absence of the original records two research teams decided to find out for themselves whether the concerns were justified.

Researchers to the rescue

Teams at the University of Nottingham in England and the University of Glasgow in Scotland published research last year showing that a group of eight-year-old Nottingham ‘Dollies’ had aged normally. Last week, they published further evidence, in the form of a radiographic assessment of the skeletons of Dolly herself, Bonnie (her naturally conceived daughter) and Megan and Morag (the first two animals to be cloned from differentiated cells).

Their article, Radiographic assessment of the skeletons of Dolly and other clones finds no abnormal osteoarthritis, has been published in the online Nature Research Open Access journal Scientific Reports. They show that the skeletons, stored in the collections of National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, display radiographic OA similar to that observed in naturally-conceived sheep and Nottingham’s healthy aged clones.

Kevin Sinclair, Professor of Developmental Biology, in the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham, said: “No formal, comprehensive assessment of osteoarthritis in Dolly was ever undertaken. We therefore felt it necessary to set the record straight.”

Nottingham’s Dolly legacy

The four Nottingham ‘Dollies’ - Debbie, Denise, Dianna and Daisy – were derived from the cell line that gave rise to Dolly. The researchers concluded that the Nottingham Dollies had aged normally with no clinical signs of OA. They had radiographic evidence of only mild or, in one case, moderate OA.

Their results, published July last year in the academic journal Nature Communications, were in apparent stark contrast to Dolly the Sheep’s diagnosis of early onset OA which led to scientific concern and media debate over the possibility of early-onset, age-related diseases in cloned animals.

Radiographic examinations

The researchers travelled to Edinburgh and, with special permission from Dr Andrew Kitchener, Principal Curator of Vertebrates at National Museums Scotland, undertook radiographic examinations of the skeletons of Dolly and her contemporary clones.

Professor Corr said: “We found that the prevalence and distribution of radiographic-OA was similar to that observed in naturally-conceived sheep, and our healthy aged cloned sheep. As a result we conclude that the original concerns that cloning had caused early-onset OA in Dolly were unfounded.”

More about sheep and ageing
Commercially-produced sheep are rarely kept beyond the age of 6-7 years. Their natural life expectancy rarely extends beyond 9-10 years. 

The Nottingham Dollies, who would now be over 10 years of age, have been humanely euthanized but their legacy continues. Professor Sinclair and his team are currently undertaking detailed molecular studies to gain a greater insight into the aging process.

Read the Open Access article:

S. A. Corr, D. S. Gardner, S. Langley-Hobbs, M. G. Ness, A. C. Kitchener, K. D. Sinclair. Radiographic assessment of the skeletons of Dolly and other clones finds no abnormal osteoarthritis. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-15902-8

Materials kindly provided by the University of Nottingham were utilized in the creation of this article.

Background on Dolly:

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is the news service for Hoofcare and Lameness Publishing. Please, no re-use of text or images on other sites or social media without permission--please link instead. (Please ask if you need help.) The Hoof Blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a headlines-link email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). Use the little envelope symbol below to email this article to others. The "translator" tool in the right sidebar will convert this article (roughly) to the language of your choice. To share this article on Facebook and other social media, click on the small symbols below the labels. Be sure to "like" the Hoofcare and Lameness Facebook page and click on "get notifications" under the page's "like" button to keep up with the hoof news on Facebook. 

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Saint Clement's Twanky Dillo Day is a Lost Hoof History Holiday

Imagine a holiday when tradition dictated that farriers and blacksmiths fire their anvils with gunpowder, then roam the streets and knock on doors, demanding liquor or cash as they sang songs with lyrics only they understood. It only happened on St Clem's Day, a festive day that has slipped off British calendars and from people's memories...unless you know where to look.  Public domain image, Chatterbox magazine, 1896.

The end of November may mean Thanksgiving Day in America, but in the British Isles, there is a forgotten holiday that you probably won't find on any calendar.

For hundreds of years, people celebrated St Clement's Day on November 23.  But now both the holiday and the saint it celebrated are lost and long forgotten in history. Hard as it is to find out what went on, much less why it went on, this day is worth remembering for its colorful couplets, enchanting songs, and evidence to the important (and powerful) role that farriers and blacksmiths played in local matters.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day for a Forgotten Hero: The Farrier at Compiègne

The memory of war is harsh, but the memory of a hero's deeds often improve with age. An anonymous World War I hero is still in the books but you have to dig to find him.

World War I began on August 1, 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. Three days later, Great Britain declared war on Germany. And three days after that, the first British troops arrived in France. They would soon become mired in one of the longest, bloodiest wars in history.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Breeders Cup: Innovative Copper-Shield Racehorse Shoes Debut Under British Turf Runner Decorated Knight

Kerckhaert horseshoes treated with a copper "shielding" process, along with copper-coated Liberty CU Carrera nails, give British runner Decorated Knight a unique flash as he trains at Del Mar in California for this weekend's Breeders Cup. The process, called Cu Shield Technology, transforms the normal plates. (Ashley Berry photo)

It’s that time of year. The best racehorses in the world have been winging their way to the USA to line up against the best of the home team. The Breeders Cup races, to be held Friday and Saturday at California’s Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, will be the Super Bowl of horseracing.

Once the horses are out on the track, they all look pretty much alike, no matter what countries they call home. Maybe you’ll see a few minor differences in tack, or the way the jockey rides. And as you watch the horses trot by in the post parade, you catch the flash in the sunlight as horse after horse shows you a glimpse of the four silver-y aluminum plates adorning their feet.

Wait a minute. What was that? As one horse trots past, the California sun catches a flash of red copper, instead of silvery aluminum. That was different...what's going on?