To explore a new source of cell therapy for myocardial infarction (MI), we assessed the usefulness of mesenchymal stem cells derived from synovial membrane samples (SM MSCs). We developed a model of MI by ligation of the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) in Lewis rats. Two weeks after ligation, 5 x 10(6) SM MSCs were injected into the MI scar area (T group, n = 9), while buffer was injected into the control group (C group, n = 9). Cardiac performances measured by echocardiography at 4 weeks after transplantation were significantly increased in the T group as compared with the C group. Masson's trichrome staining showed that SM MSC transplantation decreased collagen volume in the myocardium. Engrafted SM MSCs were found in the border zone of the infarct area. Immunohistological analysis showed that these cells were positive for the sarcomeric markers alpha-actinin and titin, and negative for desmin, troponin T, and connexin 43. SM MSC transplantation improved cardiac performance in a rat model of MI in the subacute phase, possibly through transdifferentiation of the engrafted cells into a myogenic lineage, which led to inhibition of myocardial fibrosis. Our results suggest that SM MSCs are a potential new regeneration therapy candidate for heart failure.