Every once in a while biologists come to realize that what was at one time regarded as a minor and relatively obscure cellular process is, in fact, of central importance. Not only is the process ubiquitous, but by virtue of that ubiquity it also plays a role in a broad range of normal and disease states. So it was with the discovery of the role of nitric oxide in the circulatory system, a discovery that led to a Nobel Prize, as well as to many beneficial drugs. Now another formerly obscure process known as autophagy is suddenly claiming extraordinary scientific attention.