Acute lung injury (ALI) is a severe clinical condition responsible for high mortality and the development of multiple organ dysfunctions, because of the lack of specific and effective therapies for ALI. Increasing evidence from pre-clinical studies supports preventive and therapeutic effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs, also called mesenchymal stromal cells) in ALI/ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). Therapeutic effects of MSCs were noticed in various delivery approaches (systemic, local, or other locations), multiple origins (bone marrow or other tissues), or different schedules of administrations (before or after the challenges). MSCs could reduce the over-production of inflammatory mediators, leucocyte infiltration, tissue injury and pulmonary failure, and produce a number of benefit factors through interaction with other cells in the process of lung tissue repair. Thus, it is necessary to establish guidelines, standard operating procedures and evaluation criteria for translating MSC-based therapies into clinical application for patients with ALI.