There are several gene therapy approaches to tissue regeneration. Although usually efficient, virusbased approaches may elicit an immune response against the viral proteins. An alternative approach, nonviral transfer, is safer, and can be controlled and reproduced. We hypothesized that in vivo bone formation could be achieved using human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) nonvirally transfected with the human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (hBMP-2) or -9 (hBMP-9) gene. Human MSCs were transfected using nucleofection, a unique electropermeabilization-based technique. Postnucleofection, cell viability was 53.6 +/- 2.5% and gene delivery efficiency was 51% to 88% (mean 68.2 +/- 4.1%), as demonstrated by flow cytometry in enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-nucleofected hMSCs. Transgene expression lasted longer than 14 days and was very low 21 days postnucleofection. Both hBMP-2- and hBMP-9-nucleofected hMSCs in culture demonstrated a significant increase in calcium deposition compared with EGFP-nucleofected hMSCs. Human BMP-2- and hBMP-9-nucleofected hMSCs transplanted in ectopic sites in NOD/SCID mice induced bone formation 4 weeks postinjection. We conclude that in vivo bone formation can be achieved by using nonvirally nucleofected hMSCs. This could lead to a breakthrough in the field of regenerative medicine, in which safer, nonviral therapeutic strategies present a very attractive alternative.