The use of adult stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue circumvents the moral and technical issues associated with the use of those from an embryonic source. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) can be isolated from a variety of tissues, most commonly from the bone marrow, and, although they represent a very small percentage of these cells, are easily expandable. Recently, the use of MSC has provided clinical benefit to patients with osteogenesis imperfecta, graft-versus-host disease and myocardial infarction. The cellular cues that enabled the MSC to be directed to the sites of tissue damage and the mechanisms by which MSC then exert their therapeutic effect are becoming clearer. This review discusses the relative therapeutic importance of the ability of MSC to differentiate into multiple cell lineages or stimulate resident or attracted cells via a paracrine mode of action. It also reviews recent findings that MSC home to damaged tissues in a similar, but somewhat distinct, manner to that of leucocytes via the utilisation of adhesion molecules, such as selectins and integrins, and chemokines and their receptors in a manner reminiscent of leucocytes trafficking from the blood stream to inflammatory sites.