Failure of synthetic small-diameter vascular grafts is determined mainly by the lack of endothelial cells, as these cells inhibit thrombosis and intimal hyperplasia. Coating of graft material with homing factors for circulating stem cells has the potential to improve endogenous endothelialization of these grafts and to reduce graft failure. Synthetic knitted polyester grafts (6mm diameter) were coated with FN and SDF-1α before surgical interposition in the carotid artery of sheep. Similar uncoated vascular grafts were implanted in the contralateral side as internal controls. To study the early attraction of stem cells, grafts were implanted in a first series of nine sheep and explanted after 1 or 3days. In coated grafts, four times higher fractions of CD34(+) and three to four times higher fractions of CD117(+) cells adhering to the vessel walls were found than in control grafts (P<0.05). When such coated and non-coated grafts were implanted in 12 other sheep and explanted after 3months, all coated grafts were patent, while one control graft was occluded. EcNOS staining revealed that FN-SDF-1α coating significantly increased coverage with endothelial cells from 27±4% of the graft to 48±4% compared with the controls (P=0.001). This was associated with a significant reduction of intimal hyperplasia (average thickness 1.03±0.09mm in controls vs. 0.69±0.04mm in coated grafts; P=0.009) and significantly less adhesion of thrombotic material in the middle part of the graft (P=0.029). FN-SDF-1α coating of synthetic small-caliber vascular grafts stimulated the attraction of stem cells and was associated with improved endothelialization and reduced intimal hyperplasia and thrombosis.