Soft tissue loss presents an ongoing challenge in reconstructive surgery. Local stem cell application has recently been suggested as a possible novel therapy. In the present study we evaluated the potential of a silk fibroin-chitosan (SFCS) scaffold serving as a delivery vehicle for human adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) in a murine soft tissue injury model. Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled ASCs were seeded on SFCS scaffolds at a density of 1 x 10(5) ASCs per cm(2) for 48 hours and then suture-inlaid to a 6-mm, full-thickness skin defect in 6-week-old male athymic mice. Wound healing was tracked for 2 weeks by planimetry. Histology was evaluated at 2 and 4 weeks. Our data show that the extent of wound closure was significantly enhanced in the ASC-SFCS group versus SFCS and no-graft controls at postoperative day 8 (90% +/- 3% closure vs. 75% +/- 11% and 55% +/- 17%, respectively). Microvessel density at wound bed biopsy sites from 2 weeks postoperative was significantly higher in the ASC-SFCS group versus SFCS alone (7.5 +/- 1.1 vs. 5.1 +/- 1.0 vessels per high-power field). Engrafted stem cells were positive for the fibroblastic marker heat shock protein 47, smooth muscle actin, and von Willebrand factor at both 2 and 4 weeks. GFP-positive stem cells were also found to differentiate into epidermal epithelial cells at 4 weeks postoperative. In conclusion, human adipose-derived stem cells seeded on a silk fibroin-chitosan scaffold enhance wound healing and show differentiation into fibrovascular, endothelial, and epithelial components of restored tissue.