Cells are powered by tiny energy reactors called mitochondria. When damaged, they may leak destructive molecules that can cause substantial harm and eventually kill brain cells. Mutations in a protein called PINK1 and its partner molecule Parkin cause hereditary forms of Parkinson’s disease. In addition, the inability to remove defective mitochondria from nerve cells has been linked to numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including the more common forms of Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Lazarou et al. showed that PINK1 is critical for helping cells get rid of broken down mitochondria, and can do so without the help of Parkin. PINK1 attaches to damaged mitochondria, triggering an intricate process called mitophagy that breaks down and removes defective mitochondria from the cell. This work suggests a way to treat neurodegenerative diseases by increasing the disposal of damaged mitochondria. Pubmed Link. NINDS press release. Image courtesy of NIGMS. The ubiquitin kinase PINK1 recruits autophagy receptors to induce mitophagy. Nature 524: 309-314 (2015).