Pain in the joint is often due to cartilage degeneration and represents a serious medical problem affecting people of all ages. Although many, mostly surgical techniques, are currently employed to treat cartilage lesions, none has given satisfactory results in the long term. Recent advances in biology and material science have brought tissue engineering to the forefront of new cartilage repair techniques. The combination of autologous cells, specifically designed scaffolds, bioreactors, mechanical stimulations and growth factors together with the knowledge that underlies the principles of cell biology offers promising avenues for cartilage tissue regeneration. The present review explores basic biology mechanisms for cartilage reconstruction and summarizes the advances in the tissue engineering approaches. Furthermore, the limits of the new methods and their potential application in the osteoarthritic conditions are discussed.