Massey University staff are working on world-leading collaborative research covering a range of areas related to infectious diseases and their transfer between the environment, animals and humans.
We have a broad range of specialists in animal, human and environmental health who are researching trends and solutions to emerging national and international public health issues caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses.
We are researching biological systems of humans, yeast, bacteria and pathogens to understand how diseases develop and how to prevent and cure them.
We use a diverse range of molecular, cellular, and animal model tools to investigate the mechanisms of neurological, skeletal and muscular disorders, including cancer and dementia and infectious microbial diseases.
Human muscle physiology
The maintenance of muscle function is a key determinant of fitness and overall health, particularly as we age. The increased muscle mass, changes in fuel metabolism and enhanced insulin sensitivity brought about by exercise, helps to protect us against diabetes, obesity and other diseases. By studying muscle cell physiology and biochemistry, we aim to understand the molecular mechanisms operating in contracting muscle that underlie these health benefits.
Human nutrition and bone and joint health
Dietary factors, such as dairy foods and micronutrients or lipids can affect bone health and joint cartilage. Our staff use a range of research technologies to determine the effect of dietary factors on bone health and cartilage degradation.
Massey researchers have expertise in the area of small-scale robotics and specifically micro-nano actuation and sensing systems development for molecule/cell/tissue analysis and manipulation.
We have a large number of people working in this area. We are using cutting-edge techniques to investigate microbial interactions, how to minimize their detrimental effects and to better exploit their beneficial effects.
Areas of speciality include gaining a better understanding of antibiotic resistance, bacteriophage technologies for vaccine development, medical diagnostics, and display technologies.
We use molecular, fluorescent, and flow cytometry techniques to explore cell biology, including cell shape, protein behaviour, and DNA segregation.
Find programmes with a research element, including the PhD.
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Search our staff database for an expert or area of expertise.
A new role for HDAC4 in neuronal morphogenesis and memory
Fruit flies (Drosophila) are the key to fundamental research into how long-term memories are formed and could hold the answer to treating disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression. A team at Massey led by Helen Fitzsimons were awarded Marsden research funding in 2017 to investigate the role of the histone deacetylase HDAC4 in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Her team recently showed that HDAC4 plays a critical role in both long-term memory formation and neuronal development in the fruit fly Drosophila. This project will research the nuclear and non-nuclear roles of HDAC4 in memory and neuronal morphogenesis by investigating the mechanisms through which it interacts with cytoskeletal regulators that modulate these processes.
Bugs’n’Bones study hopes to aid ageing population
As the world grapples with an ever-growing ageing population, it is estimated that one in three women over the age of 50 will experience bone fractures due to osteoporosis, a disease which causes low bone mass. Our researchers are investigating modifiable factors that could prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Members of Massey’s Medical Physiology Research Group (MPRG) have developed a state-of-the-art method for mapping colon contractions. Professor Roger Lentle, co-director of MPRG, is on a panel of world experts, tasked with reviewing the nomenclature of colonic contractions. Professor Lentle presented MPRG's work to the consensus group. The group's findings have since been published in a first consensus statement on colonic motility in Nature.
Dairy shown to improve bone health of Kiwi children
Massey University research shows children drinking milk at school have greater increases in the size and strength of their bones, compared to children who are not involved in the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme.
Fighting a dangerous disorder
The use of anaesthesia is regarded as one of the safest medical interventions, however, major complications—even death—can occur.
Tracing the course of a person’s reaction to anaesthesia is a complex problem. Professor Kathryn Stowell is leading the research on malignant hyperthermia (MH) – a genetic disorder that triggers a serious reaction to anaesthesia.
If MH-susceptibility can be determined prior to general anaesthesia, an alternative non-triggering and safe anaesthetic procedure is used, potentially mitigating severe complications and possibly death during routine surgeries.
Finding the Achilles’ heel of breast cancer
APOBEC3 proteins provide a key part of our defence against viral pathogens. They act by attacking single-stranded viral DNA (ssDNA) and destroy their genetic information by mutating the cytidines to uridines. For this defence to work, it is essential to distinguish between pathogen DNA and our own genetic information. How A3 proteins recognize specific ssDNA and specific pathogens, but neither double-stranded DNA nor RNA, remains unknown. The study aims to identify this recognition strategy and help develop a compound to mitigate this issue. The work is being done in collaboration with University of Minnesota.
Is your pet making you sick?
Household pets are a possible source of multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections, which the World Health Organization has identified as a major threat to human health, with numbers of infections on the rise.
A multi-disciplinary and cross-institution study aimed to identify novel risk factors for the growing number of community-acquired infections in New Zealand, including possible links between companion animals carrying resistant bacteria and human infection.
Love them bones
Osteoporosis is one of the leading healthcare issues worldwide. It is estimated about 22 per cent of women over 50 years of age will develop osteoporosis. The "Love Them Bones" study is led by Dr Thomson, with Dr Louise Brough, Dr Janet Weber, Professor Jane Coad, Professor Marlena Kruger and international expert Dr Mary-Jane De Souza, Director of the Women's Health and Exercise Lab from Pennsylvania State University. It asks, "What can young women (18-25) do to reduce their risk of osteoporosis later in life?"
Philosophy of medicine
Dr John Matthewson is researching the philosophy of medicine. How should we understand the notion of disease and the role that evolutionary biology might play in modern medical research and practice?
Reducing the burden of leptospirosis
A project led by Associate Professor Jackie Benschop, will attempt to address gaps in knowledge of the disease - leptospirosis. The work will inform control strategies by identifying risk factors, sources and pathways for human infection. It was awarded over $1m from the HRC in 2018.
Saving our honeybees
The bacterial pathogen, Paenibacillus larvae causes the honeybee disease American FoulBrood (AFB) the most serious disease of these important pollinators in New Zealand. The pathogen is spread through spores, which once ingested by young bee larvae, rapidly multiply and kill by breaking down the larvae’s body. The highly infectious nature of the pathogen means that once the signs of AFB are recognized in a New Zealand hive, it must be destroyed within seven days. Scientists from Massey University, led by Dr Heather Hendrickson, are investigating a natural bioprotective agent that may be key to keeping the pathogen at bay.
The focus of Saima Rizwan's research is to understand complex pathogenic mechanisms in osteoarthritis and to identify potential targets for GLM (green-lipped mussel) therapy in osteoarthritis. Her project is supervised by Dr Fran Wolber.Saima Rizwan
Doctor of Philosophy
Janice Lim's PhD project investigates the hypoglycaemic potential of several plant extracts easily accessible in New Zealand that may help in improving blood glucose homeostasis, particularly in people diagnosed with prediabetes. She also studies the underlying mechanism of action of plant extracts in improving blood glucose response. Her project is supervised by Associate Professor Rachel Page.Wen Xin Janice Lim
Doctor of Philosophy
Centre for Metabolic Health Research
The Centre for Metabolic Health Research facilitates interdisciplinary research in metabolic health, with key aspects being the prevention of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the maintenance of mobility and functionality throughout the lifecycle.
The EpiCentre is the largest veterinary epidemiology training and research centre in Australasia. It is widely considered to be one of the leading groups in the world. We have expertise in the understanding and control of disease in animal populations, the transmission of disease from animals to humans, and hazards in food of animal origin.
Infectious Disease Research Centre (IDReC)
The Centre engages in applied research concerning multi-host pathogens and fundamental research regarding pathogen evolution and disease emergence. We cover the spectrum of population-based infectious disease research from microbiology, through population genetics, epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, disease ecology, statistics, mathematical modelling, and public health.
New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre
The Centre, hosted by Massey University, focuses on better ways of detecting hazards in the food production chain and reducing the risk of food-borne illness to consumers. The Centre aims to provide an internationally credible science base for decisison-making in public health and the food industry.
The mEpiLab's works to improve the health of New Zealanders by developing and applying new techniques to inform decision making and guide the prevention and control of infectious disease.
Awards and recognition
Dr Helen Fitzsimons was awarded $795,000 from the Royal Society's Marsden Fund for the project 'A new role for HDAC4 in neuronal morphogenesis and memory'.Royal Society Te Apārangi
Marsden funding for neurone research
Professor Tim Cooper received $953,000 for the research project: Evolving to evolve: testing how history and community influence evolutionary potential.Royal Society Te Apārangi
Marsden funding for research into evolvability
Dr Collette Bromhead was appointed chief executive of the New Zealand Organisation of Rare Diseases (NZORD). The health advocacy organisation represents the interests of New Zealanders affected by rare disorders by promoting research and partnering with clinicians to improve diagnostics, treatments and support.New Zealand Organisation of Rare Diseases
Massey lecturer appointed head of rare diseases organisation
Massey University biochemist Kathryn Stowell was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2015 for her discovery of a novel gene variant in the rare genetic disorder Malignant Hyperthermia.New Year Honours
ONZM for life-saving research
Professor David Hayman was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2017 worth $160,000 a year for five years. The Fellowship is awarded to support talented early to mid career researchers.Royal Society Te Apārangi
Rutherford Discovery Fellowship