Adult stem cells are activated to proliferate and differentiate during normal tissue homeostasis as well as in disease states and injury. This activation is a vital component in the restoration of function to damaged tissue via either complete or partial regeneration. When regeneration does not fully occur, reparative processes involving an overproduction of stromal components ensure the continuity of tissue at the expense of its normal structure and function, resulting in a "reparative disorder". Adult stem cells from multiple organs have been identified as being involved in this process and their role in tissue repair is being investigated. Evidence for the participation of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) in the tissue repair process across multiple tissues is overwhelming and their role in reparative disorders is clearly demonstrated, as is the involvement of a number of specific signaling pathways. Transforming growth factor beta, bone morphogenic protein and Wnt pathways interact to form a complex signaling network that is critical in regulating the fate choices of both stromal and tissue-specific resident stem cells (TSCs), determining whether functional regeneration or the formation of scar tissue follows an injury. A growing understanding of both TSCs, MSCs and the complex cascade of signals regulating both cell populations have, therefore, emerged as potential therapeutic targets to treat reparative disorders. This review focuses on recent advances on the role of these cells in skeletal muscle, heart and lung tissues.