Loss of articular cartilage from the ends of bones forming diarthrodial joints can be the source of profound pain and disability, and eventually lead to complete degeneration of the joint, necessitating total joint replacement. Until a few years ago, there seemed little hope of treating such defects. Novel surgical procedures and cell therapies have recently been found, however, to stimulate the formation of reparative tissue resulting in the relief of pain and restoration of function, at least for a limited time period. Moreover, studies of the healing of chondral defects in animal models have revealed that there is some potential for regeneration of this connective tissue. The introduction of certain biomaterial scaffolds along with selected surgical procedures and cell therapies has been demonstrated in animal studies to facilitate the cartilage reparative process and now offers the promise of extending the longevity of clinical treatments of cartilage defects. Collectively these findings provide the basis for the rational development of approaches for the more complete regeneration of articular cartilage, and demonstrate that meaningful clinical outcomes can be achieved even if complete regeneration is not achieved.