The remyelinating potential of autologous bone marrow cells was studied after direct injection and following intravenous injection into rats with a demyelinated lesion in the spinal cord. Both focal and intravenous injections of acutely isolated mononuclear bone marrow cell fractions resulted in varying degrees of remyelination. Suspensions of bone marrow cells collected from the same rat were delivered at varied concentrations (102 to 105 for direct injection and 104 to 107 for i.v. injections). The lesions were examined histologically 3 weeks after transplantation. Light microscopic examination revealed remyelination in the dorsal funiculus with both injection protocols, but the extent of remyelination was proportional to the number of injected cells. To attain the same relative density of remyelination achieved by direct injection, intravenous administration of cells required delivery of substantially more cells (two orders of magnitude). However, the availability of autologous bone marrow cells in large number and the potential for systemically delivering cells to target lesion areas without neurosurgical intervention suggest the potential utility of intravenous cell delivery as a prospective therapeutic approach in demyelinating disease. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.