Historically, platelet transfusion has proven a reliable way to treat patients suffering from thrombocytopenia or similar ailments. An undersupply of donors, however, has demanded alternative platelet sources. Scientists have therefore sought to recapitulate the biological events that convert hematopoietic stem cells into platelets in the laboratory. Such platelets have shown good function and potential for treatment. Yet the number manufactured ex vivo falls well short of clinical application. Part of the reason is the remarkable gaps in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving platelet formation. Using several stem cell sources, scientists have progressively clarified the chemical signaling and physical microenvironment that optimize ex vivo platelets and reconstituted them in synthetic environments. Key advances in cell reprogramming and the ability to propagate self-renewal have extended the lifetime of megakaryocytes to increase the pool of platelet progenitors.