Adult stem cells provide replacement and repair descendants for normal turnover or injured tissues. These cells have been isolated and expanded in culture, and their use for therapeutic strategies requires technologies not yet perfected. In the 1970s, the embryonic chick limb bud mesenchymal cell culture system provided data on the differentiation of cartilage, bone, and muscle. In the 1980s, we used this limb bud cell system as an assay for the purification of inductive factors in bone. In the 1990s, we used the expertise gained with embryonic mesenchymal progenitor cells in culture to develop the technology for isolating, expanding, and preserving the stem cell capacity of adult bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The 1990s brought us into the new field of tissue engineering, where we used MSCs with site-specific delivery vehicles to repair cartilage, bone, tendon, marrow stroma, muscle, and other connective tissues. In the beginning of the 21st century, we have made substantial advances: the most important is the development of a cell-coating technology, called painting, that allows us to introduce informational proteins to the outer surface of cells. These paints can serve as targeting addresses to specifically dock MSCs or other reparative cells to unique tissue addresses. The scientific and clinical challenge remains: to perfect cell-based tissue-engineering protocols to utilize the body's own rejuvenation capabilities by managing surgical implantations of scaffolds, bioactive factors, and reparative cells to regenerate damaged or diseased skeletal tissues.