The optic nerve conveys information about the outside world from the retina to multiple subcortical relay centers. Until recently, the optic nerve was widely believed to be incapable of re-growing if injured, with dire consequences for victims of traumatic, ischemic, or neurodegenerative diseases of this pathway. Over the past 10-20 years, research from our lab and others has made considerable progress in defining factors that normally suppress axon regeneration and the ability of retinal ganglion cells, the projection neurons of the retina, to survive after nerve injury. Here we describe research from our lab on the role of inflammation-derived growth factors, suppression of inter-cellular signals among diverse retinal cell types, and combinatorial therapies, along with related studies from other labs, that enable animals with optic nerve injury to regenerate damaged retinal axons back to the brain. These studies raise the possibility that vision might one day be restored to people with optic nerve damage.