This review discusses the potential usefulness of several selected polypeptide growth factors as treatments for stroke. Distinctions between global vs. focal cerebral ischemia, permanent vs. temporary focal ischemia, and acute stroke vs. stroke recovery are first discussed. Potential routes of administration of growth factors are also considered. The growth factors basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), osteogenic protein-1 (OP- 1), vascular endothelial growth factor (Veg-f), erythropoietin (EPO), and granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) all show potential usefulness in animal models of acute stroke and stroke recovery. Two of these factors, bFGF and EPO, have reached human clinical trials for acute stroke, and the data are discussed. Future directions in this field are also discussed.