One factor limiting the therapeutic efficacy of cord blood (CB) hematopoietic progenitor cell (HPC) transplantation is the low cell dose of the graft. This is associated with an increased incidence of delayed or failed engraftment. Cell dose can be increased and the efficacy of CB transplantation potentially improved, by ex vivo CB expansion before transplantation. Two ex vivo CB expansion techniques were compared: (1) CD133+ selection followed by ex vivo liquid culture and (2) co-culture of unmanipulated CB with bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Ex vivo culture was performed in medium supplemented with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, stem cell factor and either thrombopoietin or megakaryocyte growth and differentiation factor. Expansion was followed by measuring total nucleated cell (TNC), CD133+ and CD34+ cell, colony-forming unit and cobblestone area-forming cell output. When compared to liquid culture, CB-MSC co-culture (i) required less cell manipulation resulting in less initial HPC loss and (ii) markedly improved TNC and HPC output. CB-MSC co-culture therefore holds promise for improving engraftment kinetics in CB transplant recipients.