Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) are an attractive target for novel strategies in the gene/cell therapy of hematologic and skeletal pathologies, involving BMSC in vitro expansion/transfection and reinfusion. We investigated the effects of in vitro expansion on BMSC pluripotentiality, proliferative ability, and bone-forming efficiency in vivo. BMSC from three marrow donors were cultured to determine their growth kinetics. At each passage, their differentiation potential was verified by culture in inductive media and staining with alizarin red, alcian blue, or Sudan black, and by immunostaining for osteocalcin or collagen II. First passage cells were compared to fresh marrow for their bone-forming efficiency in vivo. Stromal cell clones were isolated from five donors and characterized for their multidifferentiation ability. The lifespan and differentiation kinetics of five of these clones were determined. After the first passage, BMSC had a markedly diminish proliferation rate and gradually lost their multiple differentiation potential. Their bone-forming efficiency in vivo was reduced by about 36 times at first confluence as compared to fresh bone marrow. Experiments on the clones yielded comparable results. Culture expansion causes BMSC to gradually lose their early progenitor properties. Both the duration and the conditions of culture could be crucial to successful clinical use of these cells and must be considered when designing novel therapeutic strategies involving stromal mesenchymal progenitor manipulation and reinfusion.