Michelle Baack, MD, Lab

 Baack Lab

Primary Research Focus

Dr. Baack Bio

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
  • 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 
  • Michelle BaackAssociate Professor of Pediatrics - Division of Neonatology, Sanford School of Medicine - University of South Dakota
  • Physician Scientist, Children’s Health Research Center, Sanford Research
  • Neonatologist, Sanford Children’s Specialty Clinic

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. 


Access Dr. Baack's publications here.  
Meet members of the Baack lab here.  
Contact Us News
Phone: (605) 312-6420  View news about Baack lab here.
Fax: (605) 312-6071  
Email: michelle.baack@sanfordhealth.org


Lab News

December 2016 Dr. Baack met as part of the SD Medicaid Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee which is a Governor appointed group that works with the Department of Social Services to ensure the needs of Medicaid recipients are met while addressing the high costs, clinical efficacy, safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs.

December 2016 Dr. Michelle Baack moderated a plenary session and judged research abstracts and posters at the annual meeting for the Midwest Society for Pediatric Research in Chicago, IL.

October 2016, Dr. Baack moderated a plenary session and judged abstracts and posters at the 2016 Midwest Society for Pediatric Research in Chicago, IL. She also attended the annual meeting for American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research while in Chicago.

September 2016,Dr. Kyle Sabey, a Pediatric Resident in the Baack laboratory, was awarded the Jack Metcoff Award for the best scientific oral presentation by a Resident/Fellow at the 2016 Midwest Society for Pediatric Research meeting in Chicago, IL. His presentation was entitled "The role of mitochondrial dynamism in developmentally programmed heart disease". https://www.aps-spr.org/Regions/MWSPR/awards/metcoff.asp

June 2016, Dr. Michelle Baack attended and presented at the 76th Scientific Session of the American Diabetes Association meeting in New Orleans, LA. Her talk was entitled “Maternal High-fat Diet Exacerbates Developmentally Programmed Cardiovascular Disease in Offspring of Diabetic Pregnancies through Impaired Cardiac Metabolism” as part of the Unraveling the Mysteries of Teratogenesis, Fetal Programming, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Using Pioneering Technologies Session.

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