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This Week in Science: Jan 11, 2013

In Science this week, a team led by researchers from the University of Manchester report on the creation of an artificial small-molecule machine capable of creating peptides, moving one step close to the development of a man-made ribosome. The machine, which is based on a rotaxane, travels alone a molecular strand, picking up amino acids placed in its way and synthesizing a peptide in a sequence-specific manner. The scientists were able to use their creation to string together three amino acids and produce milligram quantities of a peptide.

Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, a multi-institute group led by investigators at Johns Hopkins University describe the use of DNA collected from routine Pap smears to detect endometrial and ovarian cancers, potentially offering a new screening tool for women's health. Hypothesizing that the cancers might shed cells into the cervix where they could be collected in a Pap smear, the team analyzed Pap smear samples using a sensitive massively parallel sequencing method. They were able to identify known genetic mutations associated with the diseases in 100 percent of the samples from women with endometrial cancer, and in 41 percent of women with ovarian cancer. While improvements need to be made to the method before it could be applied widely in the clinic, "it represents a promising step toward a broadly applicable screening methodology for the early detection of gynecologic malignancies."

Daily Scan's sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study here.