Injuries to the articular cartilage and growth plate are significant clinical problems due to their limited ability to regenerate themselves. Despite progress in orthopedic surgery and some success in development of chondrocyte transplantation treatment and in early tissue-engineering work, cartilage regeneration using a biological approach still remains a great challenge. In the last 15 years, researchers have made significant advances and tremendous progress in exploring the potentials of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in cartilage repair. These include (a) identifying readily available sources of and devising appropriate techniques for isolation and culture expansion of MSCs that have good chondrogenic differentiation capability, (b) discovering appropriate growth factors (such as TGF-β, IGF-I, BMPs, and FGF-2) that promote MSC chondrogenic differentiation, (c) identifying or engineering biological or artificial matrix scaffolds as carriers for MSCs and growth factors for their transplantation and defect filling. In addition, representing another new perspective for cartilage repair is the successful demonstration of gene therapy with chondrogenic growth factors or inflammatory inhibitors (either individually or in combination), either directly to the cartilage tissue or mediated through transducing and transplanting cultured chondrocytes, MSCs or other mesenchymal cells. However, despite these rapid pre-clinical advances and some success in engineering cartilage-like tissue and in repairing articular and growth plate cartilage, challenges of their clinical translation remain. To achieve clinical effectiveness, safety, and practicality of using MSCs for cartilage repair, one critical investigation will be to examine the optimal combination of MSC sources, growth factor cocktails, and supporting carrier matrixes. As more insights are acquired into the critical factors regulating MSC migration, proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation both ex vivo and in vivo, it will be possible clinically to orchestrate desirable repair of injured articular and growth plate cartilage, either by transplanting ex vivo expanded MSCs or MSCs with genetic modifications, or by mobilising endogenous MSCs from adjacent source tissues such as synovium, bone marrow, or trabecular bone.