Cellular and Molecular Cardiology

Principal Investigator

Research Interests

2017 CMC lab photo
Lab group: Parisa Koutsifeli, Xun Li, Marco Annandale, Yohanes Nursalim, Lorna Daniels, Kim Mellor

In the Cellular and Molecular Cardiology lab, our research investigates the mechanisms of heart failure in the hope of identifying new targets of therapeutic value. We have a particular interest in diabetes-associated heart failure – a condition with no specific treatment strategy. Heart abnormalities in diabetic patients are distinctive from those observed in non-diabetes. We have made some new discoveries relating to the process of glucose management in diabetic heart muscle cells and have studies underway addressing new questions about glucose storage and availability in the diabetic heart.

Diabetes prevalence has been linked with excess dietary intake of fructose, and our studies suggest that fructose sugar may be a key instigator of heart damage in diabetes. Very little is known about fructose metabolism in heart muscle cells and our studies are examining the intracellular fructose damage pathways and testing novel intervention strategies.

Our pre-clinical investigations include assessment of heart function at the ‘whole organ’ and ‘single cell’ level. We link functional outcomes to molecular signalling measurements and use gene manipulation techniques to interrogate the proposed mechanisms.

We have a number of research projects 'on the go' in the lab and many exciting opportunities for research students. 


Parisa langendorff
a-actinin NRVMs
UoA Science Lab 6
CMC Lab - Marco microscope

Group Members

Principal Investigator

Dr Kimberley Mellor
Kim Mellor completed her PhD on cardiac dysfunction in diabetes from the University of Melbourne in 2011. Following a post-doctoral period in the Cardiac Phenomics laboratory at the University of Melbourne, she relocated to New Zealand with a Rutherford Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. She was appointed Lecturer in 2013 in the Department of Physiology at the University of Auckland and leads the Cellular and Molecular Cardiology laboratory. Kim’s research has identified and characterized an important role for myocardial autophagy signaling in the context of diabetes and metabolic stress. She directs several research programs involved with understanding how molecular signaling is influenced by glucose mishandling and autophagy induction and is advancing new investigations into the role of fructose sugar in mediating cardiac damage in diabetes.


Research Staff

Dr Lorna Daniels
Lorna Daniels completed her PhD at the University of Otago in 2017 - investigating the role of CaMKII in mediating diabetic heart pathology. Lorna joined the Mellor lab in 2017 as a Research Fellow and her studies focus on the contribution of cardiac metabolic dysregulation to diabetic cardiomyopathy, with a particular focus on the role of glucose and fructose sugar mishandling.  

Xun Li
Xun (Cookie) Li completed her MSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Auckland in 2011 and joined the lab as a research technician in 2014. 

Yohanes Nursalim
Yohanes completed his MSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Auckland in 2016 and joined the lab as a research technician in 2017. 


Research Students

Parisa Koutsifeli, PhD Student
Parisa joined the lab in 2016 and is investigating new in vivo interventions to rescue diastolic dysfunction in the diabetic heart.

Marco Annandale, BSc(Hons) Physiology Student
Marco is investigating the cardiac glucose handling and autophagy mechanisms in diabetic cardiomyopathy.


Past Research Students and Staff

Vicky Benson, Research Fellow, 2015 - 2017

Jessica Liu, BSc(Hons) Biomedical Science 2016

Dhanya Herath, Biomedical Engineering 4th year project, 2015

Ellie Stevens, BSc(Hons) Biomedical Science, 2014





Current Funding

Previous Funding

  • Faculty Research Development Fund, University of Auckland
  • National Heart Foundation of NZ
  • Auckland Medical Research Foundation
  • Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, RSNZ

Selected Publications

Delbridge LM*, Mellor, KM*, Taylor DJ, Gottlieb RA (2017). Myocardial stress and autophagy: mechanisms and interventional prospects. Nature Reviews Cardiology. In Press. *Equal 1st author. DOI: 10.1038/nrcardio.2017.35

Delbridge LM, Benson VL, Ritchie RH, Mellor KM (2016). Diabetic Cardiomyopathy: The Case for a Role of Fructose in Disease Etiology. Diabetes. 65(12):3521-3528. DOI: 10.2337/db16-0682

Delbridge LM, Bienvenu LA, Mellor KM (2016). Angiotensin-(1-9): New Promise for Post-Infarct Functional Therapy. J Am Coll Cardiol. 68(24):2667-2669. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.10.011

Delbridge LMD, Mellor KM, Taylor DJ, & Gottlieb RA (2015). Myocardial autophagic energy stress responses—macroautophagy, mitophagy, and glycophagy. American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology308 (10), H1194-H1204. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00002.2015

Mellor KM, Brimble MA, & Delbridge LM (2015). Glucose as an agent of post-translational modification in diabetes--New cardiac epigenetic insights. Life Sci129, 48-53. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2014.03.020

Chandramouli C, Varma U, Stapleton DI, Xiao RP, Mellor KM*, & Delbridge LMD* (2015). Myocardial glycogen dynamics – new perspectives and intervention insights. Review in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 42(4), 415-425. *Equal senior author. doi: 10.1111/1440-1681.12370.

Mellor, KM., Curl, C. L., Chandramouli, C., Pedrazzini, T., Wendt, I. R., & Delbridge, L. M. D. (2014). Ageing-related cardiomyocyte functional decline is sex and angiotensin II dependent. Age. 36(3):9630. doi:10.1007/s11357-014-9630-7

Mellor KM, Varma U, Stapleton DI, & Delbridge LMD. (2014). Cardiomyocyte glycophagy is regulated by insulin and exposure to high extracellular glucose. American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 306(8), H1240-H1245. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00059.2014


Podcasts & Media Articles


Fructose diet-induced cardiomyocyte Ca2+ cycling abnormality (2012)

“In our latest podcast we explore the cardiac-specific effects of a high fructose diet. An inventive new study by Mellor et al investigates excitation contraction coupling changes in myocytes isolated from an experimental mouse model. These studies reveal, upon high fructose feeding, marked alterations in myocyte Ca2+ handling, but with maintained contractile function. Associate Editor Meredith Bond and leading expert Susan Howlett (Dalhousie University) interview senior author Lea Delbridge (University of Melbourne) about her exciting new work on diabetic cardiomyopathy.”

Fructose diet treatment in mice induces fundamental disturbance of cardiomyocyte Ca2+ handling and myofilament responsiveness. Kimberley M Mellor, Igor R Wendt, Rebecca H Ritchie, and Lea M.D. Delbridge. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol2012 Vol. 302 no. 4, H964-H972 DOI: 10.1152/ajpheart.00797.2011


'Fructose and the diabetic heart' Our Changing World, Radio NZ

'NZ study to explore the fructose effect on diabetes' Radio NZ

'New study looks at why diabetics suffer heart problems' Newstalk ZB

'Fructose - too much sugar for the heart?' Scoop.co.nz