Hematopoietic stem cells are identified based on their functional ability to migrate via the blood circulation of transplanted recipients, to home to the host bone marrow and to durably repopulate this organ with high levels of maturing myeloid and lymphoid cells. While a small pool of undifferentiated stem cells with the potential to repeat the entire process in serially transplanted recipients is maintained within the bone marrow, maturing cells are continuously released into the circulation. In recent years pre-clinical, functional in vivo models for human stem cells have been developed, using immune-deficient mice or pre-immune, fetal sheep as recipients. The mechanism of human stem cell migration, homing and repopulation in transplanted immune-deficient NOD/SCID and NOD/SCID/B2m(null) mice as well as the accessory mediators that facilitate these processes, will be reviewed. In particular, the essential roles of the chemokine SDF-1 and its receptor CXCR4 which mediate and regulate stem cell homing and repopulation will be discussed.