A new era has begun in the treatment of ischemic disease and heart failure. With the discovery that stem cells from diverse organs and tissues, including bone marrow, adipose tissue, umbilical cord blood, and vessel wall, have the potential to improve cardiac function beyond that of conventional pharmacological therapy comes a new field of research aiming at understanding the precise mechanisms of stem cell-mediated cardiac repair. Not only will it be important to determine the most efficacious cell population for cardiac repair, but also whether overlapping, common mechanisms exist. Increasing evidence suggests that one mechanism of action by which cells provide tissue protection and repair may involve paracrine factors, including cytokines and growth factors, released from transplanted stem cells into the surrounding tissue. These paracrine factors have the potential to directly modify the healing process in the heart, including neovascularization, cardiac myocyte apoptosis, inflammation, fibrosis, contractility, bioenergetics, and endogenous repair.