Cell therapy with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can improve tissue healing. It is possible, however, that priming MSCs prior to implantation can further enhance their therapeutic benefit. This study was then performed to test whether priming MSCs to be more anti-inflammatory would enhance healing in a rat ligament model, i.e. a medial collateral ligament (MCL). MSCs were primed for 48 h using polyinosinic acid and polycytidylic acid (Poly (I:C)) at a concentration of 1 μg/ml. Rat MCLs were surgically transected and administered 1 × 10(6) cells in a carrier solution at the time of injury. A series of healing metrics were analyzed at days 4 and 14 post-injury in the ligaments that received primed MSCs, unprimed MSCs, or no cells (controls). Applying primed MSCs beneficially altered healing by affecting endothelialization, type 2 macrophage presence, apoptosis, procollagen 1α, and IL-1Ra levels. When analyzing MSC localization, both primed and unprimed MSCs co-localized with endothelial cells and pericytes suggesting a supportive role in angiogenesis. Priming MSCs prior to implantation altered key ligament healing events, resulted in a more anti-inflammatory environment, and improved healing.