Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and adult stem cells both provide important resources to define the mechanisms of hematopoietic cell development. To date, studies that utilize hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) isolated from sites such as bone marrow or umbilical cord blood have been the primary means to identify molecular and phenotypic characteristics of blood cell populations able to mediate long-term hematopoietic engraftment. Although these HSCs are very useful clinically, they are difficult to expand in culture. Now, basic research on human ESCs provides opportunities for novel investigations into the mechanisms of HSC self-renewal. Eventually, the long history of basic and clinical research with adult hematopoietic cell transplantation could translate to establish human ESCs as a suitable alternative starting cell source for clinical hematopoietic reconstitution.