Dr Anna Brooks

PhD, immnunology. BCA, management


I currently hold an appointment as a Senior Research Fellow with the Maurice Wilkins Centre, a Centre for Research Excellence. My primary research interest brings together my strong expertise in multicolour flow cytometry, cellular immunology and mesenchymal stromal cell biology to try and better understand immune/stromal cell interactions in health and disease. I am also an experienced flow cytometrist, which has developed from my role directing the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource Laboratory at the School of Biological Sciences. My research career initially focussed on human immunology (T cells, antigen presenting cells, APCs) specialising in developing advanced multicolour flow cytometry panels to characterise and monitor immune cells in both blood and digested tissues. I am currently utilising these expertise in a number of consulting roles - developing complex panels for immune monitoring in clinical trials. More recently, my primary research lies in dissecting stromal cell heterogeneity in various human tissues.

Research | Current

Current Research:

I am currently developing innovative and integrative technologies to investigate stromal cell heterogeneity, to try and better understand the diverse cellular populations involved in health and disease. Specifically, I am interested in reconciling the confusion, discrepancies and controversies that surround “mesenchymal stem cell” research in adipose tissue. These studies will have the potential to contribute significantly to the field of mesenchymal research by characterising the heterogeneity of human adipose stromal cells. A comprehensive overview of the different cell populations and importantly, their function, is still lacking. There is currently a huge push to define the stromal vascular fraction of adipose tissue due to their widespread use in unapproved therapies. The use of advanced flow cytometric techniques (26 colour flow cytometry panels) as well as single cell approaches (scRNAseq/CITEseq), will likely accelerate our current understanding of the cellular composition of adipose tissue. 


Multicolour Flow Cytometry

As well as a Reseacrh Fellow, I am also director of Auckland Cytometry, the flow cytometry core facility for the Faculty of Science. Much of my work is centred on developing multicolour flow cytometry panels to assess the phenotypic heterogeneity of digested tissues. We have recently acquired next generation spectral cytometers and are currently running up to 26 colours simultaneously.

The two main areas that I work in are human immunology and mesenchymal stem/stromal cells.


Human Immunology

  • Characterisation of antigen presenting cells in human blood and tissues (lymph nodes)
  • Characterisation of myeloid cell populations in human blood
  • Immune profiling 
  • T cell culture/cloning

Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal cells

  • Characterisation of adipose tissue progenitor cells: in search of the beige/brite fat precursor cells 
  • Characterisation of mesenchymal and vascular cell populations in human skin (dermis)
  • Characterisation of mesenchymal cell populations in the human lymph node




Nature webcast: Addressing the challenges of characterizing mesenchymal populations using multicolour flow cytometry:http://www.nature.com/webcasts/event/multicolour-flow-cytometry/


Teaching | Current

Lecturer BIOSCI758 Development, Differentiation and Disease: Mesenchymal cells in health & disease

Lecturer SCIENT703 Frontiers in Biotechnology: Stem Cells 

Postgraduate supervision

PhD students


Zoe Woolf: Investigation of two macrophage-like populations and their influence on gliomagenesis (with Dr Thomas Park and Prof Michael Dragunow, FMHS)

Anna Boss: The role of Mesenchymal stem cells in placental vasculogenesis: are these perturbed in
pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction? 
(with Dr Jo James and Prof Larry Chamley;  FMHS)

Alicia Didsbury: Molecular characterisation of co-stimulation in human T cells. (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr. Hilary Sheppard)

Joanna Mathy: Multi-modal studies of macrophages & myeloid cells in the microenvironment of melanoma metastases (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Peter Shepherd)


Yu Yu (Joyce)  Ho: Molecular Programming of human CD8+ T cells​, (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Assoc Prof Roger Booth)

Ray Ge: Activation of immune system by a secreted viral toxin, (with John Taylor)

Daniel Verdon: Human T cell responses to cancer testis antigens, (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr. Hilary Sheppard)

Otto Strauss: Liver Antigen Presenting Cells, (with Assoc Prof Adam Bartlett, Assoc Prof Anthony Phillips, Dr Vaughan Feisst, Prof Rod Dunbar)

Elyce du Mez:  Can stimulation of human antigen presenting cells with TLR ligands improve their capacity to initiate a T-lymphocyte response to a vaccine targeting cancer. (with Dr. Catherine Angel, Dr. Julie McIntosh, Dr Scott Graham)

Sarah Meidinger: Understanding the role of stem cells in normal human skin, wound healing and disease (with Prof Rod Dunbar, Dr.Vaughan Feisst, Michelle Locke)

Jennifer Eom: Human mesenchymal cells in health and disease (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr.Vaughan Feisst)

Elliott Dunn: Mesenchymal stem cell characterisation and growth from the human epidermis (with Prof Rod Dunbar, Dr.Vaughan Feisst)

BioMed (Hons) Students


Sotaro Ochiai: A polarising protein in T-lymphocytes:Neuroserpin Expression in human cytotoxic T-cells​ (WIth Assoc Prof Nigel Birch)

Monica Boone: Creating the perfect killer​

Herman Cheung: Functional Characterisation of Progenitor Cells and Fibroblasts in Human Dermis, (with Dr.Vaughan Feisst and Dr Hilary Sheppard)

Katy Seddon: Presentation of tumour antigens to human T cells (with Prof Rod Dunbar).


Director of Auckland Cytometry, the flow cytometry core facility for the Faculty of Science



Areas of expertise

Flow Cytometry Director

  • Multicolour flow cytometry
  • Spectral Cytometry (Cytek Aurora)
  • Cell sorting
  • Immune assays

Human Immunology

  • Dendritic cells
  • T cell culture
  • T cell cloning

Mesenchymal Stromal Cells

  • Defining heterogeneity of adipose tissue



Committees/Professional groups/Services

International Society for Cell and gene Therapy (ISCT) Lab Practices Committee (2019-2021)

Elected councilor for the Australasian Cytometry Society : https://cytometry.org.au/ (2017-2019)

Conference Chairperson for he Australasian Cytometry Society annual meeting 2020

Health Research Council Grant Review Committee 2017-2018

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Merry, T. L., Brooks, A. E. S., Masson, S. W., Adams, S. E., Jaiswal, J. K., Jamieson, S. M. F., & Shepherd, P. R. (2019). The CSF1 receptor inhibitor pexidartinib (PLX3397) reduces tissue macrophage levels without affecting glucose homeostasis in mice. International Journal of Obesity10.1038/s41366-019-0355-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Troy Merry, Jagdish Jaiswal, Stephen Jamieson, Stewart Masson
  • Phukan, N., Brooks, A. E. S., & Simoes-Barbosa, A. (2018). A Cell Surface Aggregation-Promoting Factor from Lactobacillus gasseri Contributes to Inhibition of Trichomonas vaginalis Adhesion to Human Vaginal Ectocervical Cells. Infection and Immunity, 86 (8).10.1128/IAI.00907-17
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Augusto Barbosa
  • Verdon, D., Brooks, A. E., Gaggar, A., Woo, J., Subramanian, M., Schwabe, C., ... Dunbar, R. (2017). Immunological assessment of HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B patient responses following anti-PD-1 treatment.. Paper presented at 68th Annual Meeting of the American-Association-for-the-Study-of-Liver-Diseases (AASLD) / Liver Meeting, Washington, DC. 20 October - 24 October 2017. HEPATOLOGY. (pp. 1).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rod Dunbar
  • Wang, S. E., Brooks, A. E., Cann, B., & Simoes-Barbosa, A. (2017). The fluorescent protein iLOV outperforms eGFP as a reporter gene in the microaerophilic protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis. Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology, 216, 1-4. 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2017.06.003
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/42856
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Augusto Barbosa
  • Tuck, N. L., Grant, R. C., Jackson, A., Brooks, A. E., & Consedine, N. S. (2016). Beyond self-report: Performance measures of emotional competencies predict symptoms of depression and anxiety, physical symptoms, self-rated health, and immunoregulatory molecules. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 50 (6), 823-835. 10.1007/s12160-016-9809-5
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Nathan Consedine
  • Lorenz, N., Loef, E. J., Kelch, I. D., Verdon, D. J., Black, M. M., Middleditch, M. J., ... Dunbar, P. R. (2016). Plasmin and regulators of plasmin activity control the migratory capacity and adhesion of human T cells and dendritic cells by regulating cleavage of the chemokine CCL21. Immunology and Cell Biology, 94 (10), 955-963. 10.1038/icb.2016.56
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Natalie Lorenz, Evert Loef, Rod Dunbar, Scott Graham, David Greenwood, Martin Middleditch, Inken Kelch
  • Park, T.-H., Feisst, V., Brooks, A., Rustenhoven, J., Monzo, H., Feng, S., ... Graham, E. (2016). Cultured pericytes from human brain show phenotypic and functional differences associated with differential CD90 expression. Scientific Reports, 6.10.1038/srep26587
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31263
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Maurice Curtis, Rod Dunbar, Richard Faull, Michael Dragunow, Scott Graham, Vaughan Feisst, Thomas Park
  • Fromm, P. D., Kupresanin, F., Brooks, A. E. S., Dunbar, P. R., Haniffa, M., Hart, D. N. J., & Clark, G. J. (2016). A multi-laboratory comparison of blood dendritic cell populations. Clinical and Translational Immunology, 5 (4).10.1038/cti.2016.5
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rod Dunbar

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 2, Room 2001
New Zealand

Social links

Web links