Michelle Baack, MD, Lab

Baack Lab

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Primary Research Group

Environmental Influences on Health & Disease

Secondary Research Groups

Genetics & Genomics
Cellular Therapies & Stem Cell Biology
Pediatrics & Rare Diseases


Dr. Baack Bio

  • Michelle BaackAssistant Scientist, Environmental Influences on Health and Disease Group
  • Neonatologist, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Sanford Children’s Specialty Clinic
Academic Affiliations
  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics - Division of Neonatology, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

Primary Research Focus

Michelle Baack’s research is focused on establishing the underrecognized role of lipid disturbances in the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). Disease starts long before any symptoms ever develop and is often triggered by genetic and environmental influences. Although genes are encoded at conception, the environment can alter how genes are expressed (turned off or on). When an environmental stimulus occurs during a critical window of early development to cause life-long changes in the structure and function of the body, this is called developmental programming. To help improve the long term outcomes of high-risk babies, our lab studies how maternal and neonatal nutrition, specifically various types of fats, can increase or decrease the risk of disease … obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, cardiovascular and neurologic consequences.

  • Understanding the Role of Fatty Acids in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
  • Diabetes and High-fat Diet Induced Alterations in Placental Fatty Acid Transport
  • The Role of Cardiac Bioenergetics and Mitochondrial Function in Heart Health and Disease
  • The Role of Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Health of Premature Infants 

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. 


Contact Information

Phone: (605) 312-6420
Fax: (605) 312-6071
Email: michelle.baack@sanfordhealth.org


Contact Sanford Research

Address: 2301 E. 60th Street N
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Phone: (605) 312-6300
Fax: (605) 312-6071