Spinal muscular atrophy is one of the most common genetic causes of death in childhood, and there is currently no effective treatment. The disease is caused by mutations in the survival motor neuron gene. Gene therapy aimed at restoring the protein encoded by this gene is a rational therapeutic approach to ameliorate the disease phenotype. We previously reported that intramuscular delivery of a lentiviral vector expressing survival motor neuron increased the life expectancy of transgenic mice with spinal muscular atrophy. The marginal efficacy of this therapeutic approach, however, prompted us to explore different strategies for gene therapy delivery to motor neurons to achieve a more clinically relevant effect. Here, we report that a single injection of self-complementary adeno-associated virus serotype 9 expressing green fluorescent protein or of a codon-optimized version of the survival motor neuron protein into the facial vein 1 day after birth in mice carrying a defective survival motor neuron gene led to widespread gene transfer. Furthermore, this gene therapy resulted in a substantial extension of life span in these animals. These data demonstrate a significant increase in survival in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy and provide evidence for effective therapy.