That big stem cell spinal cord regeneration story you've been hearing so much about in the public prints and the sound-bite landscape for the last couple of days?
BioSciBlogger extraordinaire PZ Myers does a very good analysis of the study. Here are a few chunks:
...The basic procedure is straightforward. There is a population of neural cells in humans that do actively and continuously regenerate: the cells of the olfactory bulb. So what they did is remove one of the patient’s own olfactory bulbs, dissociate it into a soup of isolated cells, and inject them into locations above and below the injury. They also bridged the gap with strips of nerve tissue harvested from the patient’s leg. The idea is that the proliferating cells and the nerves would provide a nerve growth-friendly environment and build substrate bridges that would stimulate the damaged cells and provide a path for regrowth...
The link to the actual paper is here.
Upshot...This clinical research did not spring up in an operating room out of nowhere...The fundamental stem/olfactory ensheathing cell stuff was done in basic biology and biomedical labs funded by you and me.