Kjersti Aagaard

Kjersti Aagaard


E-mail: aagaardt@bcm.edu

Associate Professor, Baylor College of Medicine

Ph.D., Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, 1996
M.D., University of Minnesota Medical School, 2004
M.D., University of Utah, 2007

Microbiome interactions to preterm birth

The human microbiome is composed of the microbes that inhabit the human body. In fact, adult humans have ten times as many microbial cells as they do human cells. Some of these are helpful, others are benign and still others are potentially harmful. The Human Microbiome Project seeks to determine the genetic sequence of these different microbes with an eye to understanding and improving human health. Aagaard’s current preterm birth initiative seeks to determine how the vaginal microbiome and the microbes it contains affect the risk of giving premature birth. Aagaard, Versalovic, Petrosino and their collaborators at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital have spent the last three years bringing together the massive clinical, and metagenomics sequencing and informatics infrastructure to enable this project largely through their interactions with the HMP. This environment of ‘big team science’—is so well fostered through Baylor College of Medicine, the Human Genome Sequencing Center, and Texas Children’s Hospital—makes efforts such as these possible.

Sequencing, mitochondrial variations: The other facet of the research is sequencing and understanding the variations of the mitochondrial genome. Mitochondria are small organelles in each cell that produce energy. Once independent living cells, they become an integral part of human cells during the process of evolution. They are passed only from mother to child. In this study, researchers plan to determine the genetic sequence of the mitochondria of the mother, the fetus (from umbilical cord blood) and the placenta (the blood-rich organ that envelopes the developing fetus) and determine how they vary. Aagaard and her colleagues want to find out how variation in this important organelle might affect a mother’s risk of giving birth prematurely and how it might interact as a susceptibility factor with the vaginal microbiome.

Characterization of the maternal, fetal and placental microbiome at birth and in early infancy – National Children’s Study formative research: How the human microbiome is established and what influences its establishment has not yet been characterized at a population-based level. Aagaard’s current deep metagenomic characterization initiative seeks to determine how the vaginal microbiome and the microbes it contains are established at and around the time of birth. Dr. Aagaard’s lab will be working to bring together extensive clinical and exposure data with sequence data from the maternal skin and vagina, the placenta, and the infant skin, gut, and oropharynx to understand establishment from pregnancy through 4 months of age. This work is sponsored by NICHD and the National Children’s Study and will lay the ground work for future larger scale initiatives with the National Children’s Study.

Selected Publications

Suter M, Abramovici A, Showalter L, Hu M, Shope CD, Varner M, Aagaard-Tillery K (2010) In utero tobacco exposure epigenetically modifies placental CYP1A1 expression. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 59:1481-1490.

Suter M, Ma J, Harris A, Patterson L, Brown KA, Shope C, Showalter L, Abramovici A, Aagaard-Tillery KM (2011) Maternal tobacco use modestly alters correlated epigenome-wide placental DNA methylation and gene expression. Epigenetics: Official Journal of the DNA Methylation Society  6:1284-1294.

Suter M, Bocock P, Showalter L, Hu M, Shope C, McKnight R, Grove K, Lane R, Aagaard-Tillery K (2011) Epigenomics: maternal high-fat diet exposure in utero disrupts peripheral circadian gene expression in nonhuman primates. FASEB Journal  25:714-726.

Li W, Whaley CD, Bonnevier JL, Mondino A, Martin ME, Aagaard-Tillery KM, Mueller DL (2011) CD28 signaling augments Elk-1-dependent transcription at the c-fos gene during antigen stimulation. Journal of Immunology 167:827-835.

Suter MA, Chen A, Burdine MS, Choudhury M, Harris RA, Lane RH, Friedman JE, Grove KL, Tackett AJ, Aagaard KM (2012) A maternal high-fat diet modulates fetal SIRT1 histone and protein deacetylase activity in nonhuman primates. FASEB Journal 26:5106-5114.

Riehle K, Coarfa C, Jackson A, Ma J, Tandon A, Paithankar S, Raghuraman S, Mistretta TA, Saulnier D, Raza S, Diaz MA, Shulman R, Aagaard K, Versalovic J, Milosavljevic A (2012) The Genboree Microbiome Toolset and the analysis of 16S rRNA microbial sequences. BCM Bioinformatics 13:S11

Aagaard K, Riehle K, Ma J, Segata N, Mistretta TA, Coarfa C, Raza S, Rosenbaum S, Van den Veyver I, Milosavljevic A, Gevers D, Huttenhower C, Petrosino J, Versalovic J (2012) A metagenomic approach to characterization of the vaginal microbiome signature in pregnancy. PLos One 7:e36466.

Menderes G, Athar Ali N, Aagaard K, Sangi-Haghpeykar H (2012) Chlorhexidine-alcohol compared with povidone-iodine for surgical-site antisepsis in cesarean deliveries. Obstetrics and Gynecology  120:1037-1044.

Aagaard K, Petrosino J, Keitel W, Watson M, Katancik J, Garcia N, Patel S, Cutting M, Madden T, Hamilton H, Harris E, Gevers D, Simone G, McInnes P, Versalovic J (2013) The Human Microbiome Project strategy for comprehensive sampling of the human microbiome and why it matters. FASEB Journal 27:1012-1022.

Munch EM, Harris RA, Mohammad M, Benham AL, Pejerrey SM, Showalter L, Hu M, Shope CD, Maningat PD, Gunaratne PH, Haymond M, Aagaard K (2013) Transcriptome Profiling of microRNA by Next-Gen Deep Sequencing Reveals Known and Novel miRNA Species in the Lipid Fraction of Human Breast Milk. PLos One 8:e50564.

Contact Information

Kjersti Aagaard, M.D.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza 314C
Houston, Texas 77030, U.S.A.

Tel: 713-798-8467
E-mail: aagaardt@bcm.edu

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