The mechanism for stem cell-mediated improvement following acute myocardial infarction has been actively debated. We support hypotheses that the stem cell effect is primarily paracrine factor-linked. We used a heparin-presenting injectable nanofibre network to bind and deliver paracrine factors derived from hypoxic conditioned stem cell media to mimic this stem cell paracrine effect. Our self-assembling peptide nanofibres presenting heparin were capable of binding paracrine factors from a medium phase. When these factor-loaded materials were injected into the heart following coronary artery ligation in a mouse ischaemia-reperfusion model of acute myocardial infarction, we found significant preservation of haemodynamic function. Through media manipulation, we were able to determine that crucial factors are primarily < 30 kDa and primarily heparin-binding. Using recombinant VEGF- and bFGF-loaded nanofibre networks, the effect observed with conditioned media was recapitulated. When evaluated in another disease model, a chronic rat ischaemic hind limb, our factor-loaded materials contributed to extensive limb revascularization. These experiments demonstrate the potency of the paracrine effect associated with stem cell therapies and the potential of a biomaterial to bind and deliver these factors, pointing to a potential therapy based on synthetic materials and recombinant factors as an acellular therapy. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.