In Brief; July 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Leutwyler; 3 Page(s)
Vive la Francium Physicists have for the first time trapped atoms of francium, the rarest naturally occurring element. Because francium decays very quickly, the team needed to make one million atoms of it each second. Workers used six laser beams and a magnetic field to hold some 10,000 francium atoms in a space the size of a pinhead. Francium has a very simple structure, and so it may enable scientists to make precise measurements of the weak nuclear interaction.
Allergy Relief Soon peptides and DNA vaccines, rather than antihistamines, may stop the sniffles and itching of an allergy attack. Scientists have created two peptides that block the activity of IgE, an immunoglobulin molecule that normally attaches itself to allergens--say, pollen--and in doing so starts the allergic response. Another group is developing vaccines containing DNA that encodes other kinds of allergens. Through exposure to irritating proteins, such as those made by dust mites, the body may become tolerant.