When an Oxford don says that he doesn’t think there’ll be a Special Olympics after 2030, it’s worth listening to him. That’s the prediction being made by Professor Ian Goldin, who believes that advances in stem cell research and genetic engineering will, in the very near future, cause a revolution in health care. Stem cell science is on the verge of offering new treatments for a range of diseases which will transform the way the world treats illness. The Douglas Bader Foundation, an organisation which helps people with limb loss, is named after the famous RAF fighter pilot who lost his legs in an air crash in 1931, but still played a major role in the Battle of Britain in 1940. The foundation recently pondered whether stem cell treatment could, in the near future, save limbs which would otherwise need to be amputated. What might seem like science fiction is close to becoming fact, according to boffins racing to make a breakthrough in this branch of medical science. Every day diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and dementia could soon become things of the past; seen in the same way as we might today think of polio or whooping cough, says Susan Solomon, the co-founder of the New York Stem Cell Foundation. There is, however, still a controversy about the research, particularly that which involves human embryos. There are many in the world’s religious communities who claim the scientists are playing god, and that ethical questions are being ignored. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, takes the position that research must be undertaken under strict moral supervision, and must refrain from causing harm to life – and by life they mean the unborn child. If embryos are “alive”, whether viable or not, they must be respected, just like any human being, according to the Vatican.