The kidney has been considered a highly terminally differentiated organ of the body, and its proliferative potential is low, with the result that it has been thought of as a most unlikely organ for regeneration. From the structural point of view, the kidney is elaborately composed of many cell types that function as a tissue unit and not as individual cells, which also makes it more difficult to regenerate. However, in clinical settings, the kidney does have regenerative potential as seen in the recovery from acute kidney injury. The role of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells may mainly be to produce humoral factors accelerating regeneration. The origin, localization and role of kidney stem cells are under investigation. We also discuss potential applications of embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells in kidney regeneration.