Ischemic heart disease is the main cause of death and morbidity in most industrialized countries. Stem- and progenitor cell-based treatment approaches for ischemic heart disease are therefore an important frontier in cardiovascular and regenerative medicine. Experimental studies have shown that bone-marrow-derived stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells can improve cardiac function after myocardial infarction, clinical phase I and II studies were rapidly initiated to translate this concept into the clinical setting. However, as of now the effects of stem/progenitor cell administration on cardiac function in the clinical setting have not met expectations. Thus, a better understanding of causes of the current limitations of cell-based therapies is urgently required. Importantly, the number and function of endothelial progenitor cells is reduced in patients with cardiovascular risk factors and/or coronary artery disease. These observations may provide opportunities for an optimization of cell-based treatment approaches. This review provides a summary of current evidence for the role and potential of stem and progenitor cells in the pathophysiology and treatment of ischemic heart disease, including the properties, and repair and regenerative capacities of various stem and progenitor cell populations. In addition, we describe modes of stem/progenitor cell delivery, modulation of their homing as well as potential approaches to "prime" stem/progenitor cells for cardiovascular cell-based therapies.