Gene transfer into human CD34+ haematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) and multi-potent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) is an essential tool for numerous in vitro and in vivo applications including therapeutic strategies, such as tissue engineering and gene therapy. Virus based methods may be efficient, but bear risks like tumorigenesis and activation of immune responses. A safer alternative is non-viral gene transfer, which is considered to be less efficient and accomplished with high cell toxicity. The truncated low affinity nerve growth factor receptor (ALNGFR) is a marker gene approved for human in vivo application. Human CD34+ HPC and human MSC were transfected with in vitro-transcribed mRNA for DeltaLNGFR using the method of nucleofection. Transfection efficiency and cell viability were compared to plasmid-based nucleofection. Protein expression was assessed using flow cytometry over a time period of 10 days. Nucleofection of CD34+ HPC and MSC with mRNA resulted in significantly higher transfection efficiencies compared to plasmid transfection. Cell differentiation assays were performed after selecting DeltaLNGFR positive cells using a fluorescent activating cell sorter. Neither cell differentiation of MSC into chondrocytes, adipocytes and osteoblasts, nor differentiation of HPC into burst forming unit erythroid (BFU-E) colony forming unit-granulocyte, erythrocyte, macrophage and megakaryocyte (CFU-GEMM), and CFU-granulocyte-macrophage (GM) was reduced. mRNA based nucleofection is a powerful, highly efficient and non-toxic approach for transient labelling of human progenitor cells or, via transfection of selective proteins, for transient manipulation of stem cell function. It may be useful to transiently manipulate stem cell characteristics and thus combine principles of gene therapy and tissue engineering.