Background - Autologous skeletal myoblast (SM) transplantation improves function of infarcted myocardium, but pretransplantation cultures remain a complex process. This study assessed whether it could be optimized by muscle preconditioning with the local anesthetic bupivacaine or even bypassed with the use of the so-called mince technique. Methods and Results - Muscle preconditioning consisted of intramuscular injections of the tibialis anterior of rats, 2 days before harvest. After 7 days of culture, the number of available myoblasts was significantly increased compared with nonconditioned controls (1 683 147 versus 85 300, P=0.0013). The mince technique was then assessed. A myocardial infarction was created in 66 rats by coronary artery ligation. One week later, rats were reoperated on and intramyocardially injected with culture medium alone (controls, n=23), autologous cultured SM (3.5 x 106, n=21), or autologous muscle minced into a fine slurry, which was immediately transplanted (n=22). All muscles had been preconditioned. Left ventricular function was assessed by 2D echocardiography. Whereas end-diastolic volumes expanded over time in all groups, left ventricular ejection fraction (%, mean±SEM) was increased only in the cultured SM-transplanted group at 1 (P=0.0006) and 2 months (P=0.0008) versus baseline (37.52±1.92 and 40.92±2.17 versus 30.34±1.74), with a significant additional benefit between 1 and 2 months (P=0.0069). Conclusions - Cell culture remains mandatory for SM transplantation to be successful but, in a clinical perspective, this process can be made more expeditious by preharvest muscle conditioning with bupivacaine, which greatly enhances the baseline cell yield.