NEW YORK – A Japanese scientist won the spoof Ig Nobel medicine prize in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday for a study that revealed kissing could reduce allergic reactions in humans.
“I wish that people will understand the new effect of kissing and I also hope that kissing will bring not only love but also attenuation of allergic reaction,” Hajime Kimata, who could not attend the 25th annual event, said in a videotaped acceptance speech. “I am honored to be awarded the Ig Nobel Prize and I appreciate it very much.”
Kimata received the prize jointly with three Slovakian scientists who also studied the “medical effects of kissing.” The Slovakian group looked at how long male DNA stays in a woman’s mouth after “intense kissing.”
After the medical award was announced, some couples in the audience, prompted by the master of ceremonies, responded by embracing and kissing each other.
The award ceremony — which the science humor magazine “Annals of Improbable Research” gives in 10 categories as a parody of the Nobel Prizes — was held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. It was the ninth straight year for an Ig Nobel prize to go to Japanese recipients.
Kimata, who runs an allergy clinic in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, said in a statement to the press, “Using the natural healing powers that humans have, I have been working towards alleviating allergic reactions in people.”
He first published his study on how kissing affected allergic reactions in patients in 2003. During the experiment, the scientist gathered three groups of people — two groups affected by either eczema or hay fever and a control group affected by neither.
All of the patients were Japanese, who “do not kiss habitually,” according to Kimata.
The groups had their skin tested for their reactions to Japanese cedar pollen, dust mites and histamine. After kissing for 30 minutes while listening to “soft music,” such as Celine Dion’s love ballad “My Heart Will Go On,” the patients had their skin tested again for allergic reactions.
Kimata found that for the groups of patients with eczema and hay fever, their skin did not react as much to Japanese cedar pollen and dust mites after 30 minutes of kissing. Their reaction to histamine, however, was not affected.
“These findings indicate that direct action of love may be beneficial, which may in turn reduce allergic responses,” the 2003 study said.
Kimata said he is continuing to find a more natural method to relieve allergy symptoms for his patients without the use of steroids or prescription skin creams.
Among other winners were scientists from the U.S. and Australia for creating a way to “partially un-boil an egg” and a group of researchers at a Dutch linguistics institute for revealing the universality of the word “huh.”
The ceremony also included a performance by Dr. NakaMats, the alias of Japanese inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu, a 2005 Ig Nobel awardee who has terminal ductal prostate cancer. He sang a song about never giving up and inventing a new therapy despite his “stubborn” cancer.
Last year, four Japanese researchers won the physics prize for their work measuring the friction that occurs when someone steps on a banana peel.