Augmentation of myocardial performance in experimental models of therapeutic infarction and heart failure has been achieved by the transplantation of exogenous cells into damaged myocardium, a procedure known as cellular cardiomyoplasty (CCM). Historically, a wide range of cell types have been used for CCM, including rat and human fetal ventricular myocytes, but the availability of human fetal donor cells for clinical purposes is limited. The quest for suitable alternative donor cells has prompted research into the use of both embryonic stem (ES) cells and adult somatic stem cells, but the optimal choice of donor cell source is not yet known. Recently, there has been a growing body of evidence that multipotent somatic stem cells in adult bone marrow exhibit tremendous functional plasticity and can reprogramme in a new environmental tissue niche to give rise to cell lineages specific for the new organ site. This phenomenon has made a huge impact on myocardial biology and has captured the imagination of scientists who have recently discovered that multipotent adult bone marrow haematopoeitic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells can repopulate infarcted rodent myocardium and differentiate into both cardiomyocytes and new blood vessels. These data, coupled with the identification of a putative primitive cardiac stem cell population in the adult human heart, may pave the way for novel therapeutic modalities for enhancing myocardial performance and treating end-stage cardiac disease. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.