Adult bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) display a spectrum of functional properties. Transplantation of these cells improves clinical outcome in models of cerebral ischemia and spinal cord injury via mechanisms that may include replacement of damaged cells, neuroprotective effects, induction of axonal sprouting, and neovascularization. Therapeutic effects have been reported in animal models of stroke after intravenous delivery of MSCs, including those derived from adult human bone marrow. Initial clinical studies on intravenously delivered MSCs have now been completed in human subjects with stroke. Here, we review the reparative and protective properties of transplanted MSCs in stroke models, describe initial human studies on intravenous MSC delivery in stroke, and provide a perspective on prospects for future progress with MSCs.