A key tenet of bone tissue engineering is the development of scaffold materials that can stimulate stem cell differentiation in the absence of chemical treatment to become osteoblasts without compromising material properties. At present, conventional implant materials fail owing to encapsulation by soft tissue, rather than direct bone bonding. Here, we demonstrate the use of nanoscale disorder to stimulate human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to produce bone mineral in vitro, in the absence of osteogenic supplements. This approach has similar efficiency to that of cells cultured with osteogenic media. In addition, the current studies show that topographically treated MSCs have a distinct differentiation profile compared with those treated with osteogenic media, which has implications for cell therapies.