In most mesenchymal tissues a subcompartment of multipotent progenitor cells is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the tissue following trauma. With increasing age, the ability of tissues to repair themselves is diminished, which may be due to reduced functional capacity of the progenitor cells. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of aging on rat mesenchymal progenitor cells. Mesenchymal progenitor cells were isolated from Wistar rats aged 3, 7, 12 and 56 weeks. Viability, capacity for differentiation and cellular aging were examined. Cells from the oldest group accumulated raised levels of oxidized proteins and lipids and showed decreased levels of antioxidative enzyme activity. This was reflected in decreased fibroblast colony-forming unit (CFU-f) numbers, increased levels of apoptosis and reduced proliferation and potential for differentiation. These data suggest that the reduced ability to maintain mesenchymal tissue homeostasis in aged mammals is not purely due to a decline in progenitor cells numbers but also to a loss of progenitor functionality due to the accumulation of oxidative damage, which may in turn be a causative factor in a number of age-related pathologies such as arthritis, tendinosis and osteoporosis.