Transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) inhibits the progression of disc degeneration in animal models. We know of no study to determine the optimal number of cells to transplant into the degenerated intervertebral disc (IVD). To determine the optimal donor cell number for maximum benefit, we conducted an in vivo study using a canine disc degeneration model. Autologous MSCs were transplanted into degenerative discs at 10(5), 10(6), or 10(7) cells per disc. The MSC-transplanted discs were evaluated for 12 weeks using plain radiography, magnetic resonance imaging, and gross and microscopic evaluation. Preservation of the disc height, annular structure was seen in MSC-transplantation groups compared to the operated control group with no MSC transplantation. Result of the number of remaining transplanted MSCs, the survival rate of NP cells, and apoptosis of NP cells in transplanted discs showed both structural microenvironment and abundant extracellular matrix maintained in 10(6) MSCs transplanted disc, while less viable cells were detected in 10(5) MSCs transplanted and more apoptotic cells in 10(7) MSCs transplanted discs. The results of this study demonstrate that the number of cells transplanted affects the regenerative capability of MSC transplants in experimentally induced degenerating canine discs. It is suggested that maintenance of extracellular matrix by its production from transplanted cells and/or resident cells is important for checking the progression of structural disruption that leads to disc degeneration.