Large craniofacial bony defects remain a significant clinical challenge. Bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) constitute a multipotent population. Previously, we developed a novel approach for BM-MSC expansion on 3D CultiSpher-S gelatin microcarrier beads in spin culture with preservation of their multipotentiality, reduction of apoptosis, and enhancement of bone formation in vivo. Here, we hypothesized that such cultured BM-MSCs without exogenous growth factors would respond to the orthopedic microenvironment, thus promoting craniofacial defect regeneration. BM-MSCs isolated from green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic rats were ex vivo expanded and transplanted into critical-sized (5-mm diameter) rat calvaria defects. Gelatin beads or defect alone served as controls. By 28 and 42 days, rats were sacrificed for microcomputed tomography (microCT), histologic, and immunohistochemistry examination. MicroCT results demonstrated that BM-MSCs were a statistically significant factor contributing to new bone volume regeneration. Histologic assessment showed that the BM-MSCs group produced more and higher quality new bone compared with beads or defect-alone groups in both osteoinductive and osteoconductive manners. Specifically, immunohistochemical staining identified GFP+ cells residing in new bone lacunae in conjunction with non-GFP+ cells. Therefore, ex vivo expanded BM-MSCs at least in part regenerated critical-sized calvaria defects by osteogenic differentiation in vivo. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 99A: 74–85, 2011.