Cell transplantation is gaining a growing interest as a potential new means of improving the prognosis of patients with cardiac failure. The basic assumption is that left ventricular dysfunction is largely due to the loss of a critical number of cardiomyocytes and that it can be partly reversed by implantation of new contractile cells into the postinfarction scars. Primarily for practical reasons, autologous skeletal myoblasts have been the first to undergo clinical trials but other cell types are also considered, particularly bone marrow stem cells, which are attractive because of their autologous origin and their purported cardiomyocyte/endothelial transdifferentiation potential in response to cues provided by the target organ. However several key issues still need to be addressed including (1) the optimal type of donor cells, (2) the mechanism by which cell engraftment improves cardiac function, (3) the optimization of cell survival, and (4) the potential benefits of cell transplantation in non-ischemic heart failure. In parallel to the experimental studies designed to address these issues clinical trials are under way and should hopefully allow assessing to what extent cell transplantation may improve the outcome of patients with heart failure. © 2003 by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.