Retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss after optic nerve damage is a hallmark of certain human ophthalmic diseases including ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) and glaucoma. In a rat model of optic nerve transection, in which 80% of RGCs are eliminated within 14 days, caspase-2 was found to be expressed and cleaved (activated) predominantly in RGC. Inhibition of caspase-2 expression by a chemically modified synthetic short interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) delivered by intravitreal administration significantly enhanced RGC survival over a period of at least 30 days. This exogenously delivered siRNA could be found in RGC and other types of retinal cells, persisted inside the retina for at least 1 month and mediated sequence-specific RNA interference without inducing an interferon response. Our results indicate that RGC apoptosis induced by optic nerve injury involves activation of caspase-2, and that synthetic siRNAs designed to inhibit expression of caspase-2 represent potential neuroprotective agents for intervention in human diseases involving RGC loss.