An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: About four years ago, Kevin Sinclair inherited an army of clones. "Daisy, Debbie, Denise and Diana," says Sinclair, a developmental biologist at the University of Nottingham in England. "'Sister clones' probably best describes them," Sinclair says. "They actually come from the exactly the same batch of cells that Dolly came from." In an article out Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, Sinclair and his colleagues write that the ewes' age, along with their strapping health, might be a reason for people to start feeling more optimistic about what cloning can do. Dolly's life did not turn out as scientists in the cloning field hoped it would. She died young -- 6 1/2 -- with a nasty lung virus. "That was really just bad luck," Sinclair says, and had "nothing to do" with the fact that Dolly was a clone. It was a daunting concept for those in the cloning field, because, says Sinclair, "If you're going to create these animals, they should be normal in every respect. They should be just as healthy as any other animal that's conceived naturally. If that is not the case, then it raises serious ethical and welfare concerns about creating these animals in the first place." But, the good health of the 13 clones in the Nottingham herd suggest better prospects for the procedure. Sinclair and his colleagues evaluated the animals' blood pressure, metabolism, heart function, muscles and joints, looking for signs of premature aging. They even fattened them up (since obesity is a risk factor for metabolic problems including diabetes) and gave them the standard tests to gauge how their bodies would handle glucose and insulin. The results? Normal, normal, normal. "There is nothing to suggest that these animals were anything other than perfectly normal," says Sinclair. They had slight signs of arthritis (Debbie in particular), but not enough to cause problems. "If I put them in with a bunch of other sheep, you would never be able to identify them," he says.