Baack Lab

 Baack Lab

Primary Focus

Michelle L. Baack, MD

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 Growth, Development and Health of Premature Infants: Narrowing the Gap through Improved Nutritional Provision


  • Michelle BaackAssociate Professor of Pediatrics - Division of Neonatology, Sanford School of Medicine - University of South Dakota
  • Associate 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  


Lab News

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.

June 2016, Dr. Michelle Baack recently attended the NIDDK/NHLBI Mitochondrial Biology Symposium: Novel Roles of Mitochondrial in Health and Disease, Bethesda, MD. She presented on her research focused on “The Role of Bioenergetics and Mitochondrial Function in Developmentally Programmed Cardiac Disease in Offspring of Diabetic Pregnancy.”

May 2016, Dr. Michelle Baack recently attended the Pediatric Academic Society Meeting in Baltimore, MD. While there, she was inducted into the Society for Pediatric Research.  Additionally, she gave two poster presentations and a platform presentations on her work exploring how “Maternal Tobacco Smoke Exposure Impairs Placental Function and Induces Sex-Specific Alterations in Fetal Fatty Acids.” 

May 2016, Dr. Michelle Baack recently met in Pierre as part of a Governor’s Appointed Medicaid Advisory Committee.  Dr. Baack has served on this MAC since March 2014 and was appointed by Governor Daugaard.  The MAC – Medicaid Advisory Committee assists and advises the Department of Social Services in serving SD Medicaid recipients.  This month discussed Home and Community Based Services, Genetic Testing and Counseling, Budget, Applied Behavioral Services and expansion of Autism treatment and hear an update about Medicaid Expansion in our state. 

March 2016, Dr. Michelle Baack’s recent publication entitled “Maternal high-fat diet impairs cardiac function in offspring of diabetic pregnancy through metabolic stress and mitochondrial dysfunction” in the journal American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology has been nominated for distinction in scholarship for APS select  This is a collection of articles from the APS journals that showcases some of the best recently published articles in physiological research.

 News Archive