Michelle Baack, MD, Lab
Behind the research
To meet this objective, Dr. Baack uses both basic science and clinical research strategies. The Baack Lab at Sanford Research works to identify the molecular mechanisms of developmentally programmed disease. Using a rat model they discovered that a maternal high-fat diet, especially alongside late gestation diabetes, increases the risk of heart disease in the developing offspring through alterations in cardiac fuel utilization, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Findings serve as a critical step towards understanding the role of cellular bioenergetics in developmentally programmed heart disease. On-going work is focusing on sex-specific differences and translating findings to human models using cardiac progenitors from human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells. The Baack lab also uses this same rat model in collaboration with other labs to understand how maternal diabetes and dyslipidemia increases the risk of stillbirths, abnormal brain, kidney, pancreas, liver and lung development.
Dr. Baack’s clinical research focuses on protecting babies who are born too early. The premature infant is born deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for normal health, brain and retinal development. She led a clinical trial in the Boekelheide NICU which developed a new way to overcome this deficiency with the goal to prevent significant complications of prematurity. Also, the Mother’s Milk DHA study helps moms assure the breast milk they give their baby is a good source of essential fats.
Overall, the Baack Lab hopes to raise awareness about the importance of balancing the intake of both “good” and “bad” fats during high-risk pregnancy and early infant development.