Primary research interest

Metabolism and microbiome in pregnancy

About me

I have a MSc in Medical Biology from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I moved to Sweden to study the role of Insulin and IGF-1 receptors in endothelial cells obtaining a Licentiate Degree in Medical Cell Biology at Linköping University, Sweden in 2005. I pursued my PhD at Lund Univeristy, Sweden in Molecular Metabolism of the pancreatic beta cells (2007).

In my first post-doctoral scholarship funded by the Nordic Centre of Excellence in Disease Genetics and the Swedish Society for Medical Research, I investigated the role of epigentics in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. I then moved to Australia in 2011 to pursue research into metabolism in pregnancy. I am the key scientist of the SPRING RCT team which aims to prevent gestational diabetes mellitus in overweight and obese pregnant women with probiotics.

I joined the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences as a Senior Lecturer in Metabolism and to continue my research into metabolism and the microbiome in pregnancy.

Research focus and collaborations

The focus of the Metabolism and Microbiome in Pregnancy lab is on understanding the role of the microbiome in shaping metabolic changes in pregnancy and pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia. The rate of pregnancy complications is increasing in line with the rise in overweight and obesity in women of childbearing age. Recently, it has become clear that the microbiome i.e. the composite of microorganisms present on an organism, is an important regulator of many physiological processes including metabolism and immunity. The lab uses samples obtained from clinical studies to investigate the mechanisms by which the microbiome regulates metabolism in pregnancy.

The lab has a close collaboration with clinician-scientists at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital: Professor Leonie Callaway and Dr Helen Barrett, and the Mater Mothers' Hospital: Professor David McIntyre and Dr Shelley Wilkinson. We also work with the laboratory of Professor Mark Morrison at the TRI on the microbiome studies. For our lipid studies, we recently started a collaboration with Associate Professor Barbara Meyer at the University of Wollongong and Dr Dilys Freeman at the University of Glasgow, UK.

Our research group is part of the Queensland Perinatal Consortium (QPACT), a collaboration between research groups interested in perinatal research within South-East Queensland.

Funded projects

  • 2015 – $40 000 in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’ Hospital Foundation for study of the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance genes in the gut microbiome of overweight and obese pregnant women.
  • 2015 – $40 000 in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’ Hospital Foundation for study of ketone production after a carbohydrate-restricted meal in women with GDM.
  • 2015 – $36 740 in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’ Hospital Foundation for study of postprandial triglycerides in diabetes in pregnancy: a pilot study.
  • 2014 – $40 000 in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’ Hospital Foundation for study of the comparison of the microbiomes of the gut, oral cavity and placenta in mother and baby dyads.
  • 2014 – $40 000 in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’ Hospital Foundation for study of periconception weight loss and the epigenetic regulation of stress and growth in the infant.
  • 2014 – $78 000 AUD in project support from the Queensland Health Strategic Health Initiatives for Longitudinal effects of probiotic supplementation during pregnancy on the body composition and growth of infants.
  • 2014 – $25 000 AUD in project support from the QCMR and QUT Collaborative Seeding Grants Scheme for study of environmental pollutants—transfer from mother to fetus.
  • 2013 – $40 000 AUD in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation for study of metabolic toxins and placental function.
  • 2012 – $40 000 AUD in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation for study of the role of the gut microbiome in the development of gestational diabetes.
  • 2012 – $6 600 AUD in project support from Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society – Novo Nordisk Scientific Research Grant for project Gene expression and DNA methylation of diabetes-associated genes in the placenta and offspring neonatal buccal cells from pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes mellitus.
  • 2012 – $31 000 AUD in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation for study of the role of maternal prepregnancy weight loss on the neonatal stress response.
  • 2012 – $13 000 AUD in project support from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation for the measurement of maternal triglyceride metabolism in the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • 2012-2015 - $828 000 AUD in project support from NHMRC for project Priobiotics to prevent gestational diabetes.
  • 2011 - $40 000 AUD in project support from RBWH foundation for project Impact of metformin treatment for gestational diabetes: A prospective observational study.
  • 2011 - $39 000 AUD in project support from Pfizer Australia for project Placental expression of lipoprotein lipase, endothelial lipase and hormone-sensitive lipase in pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia or eclampsia or intrauterine growth retardation. 
  • 2010 - $10 000 in project support from Tore Nilssons stiftelse för medicinsk forskning.
  • 2009 - $10 000 AUD in project support from Fredrik och Ingrid Thurings stiftelse för medicinsk forskning.
  • 2009 - $11 000 AUD in project support from Tore Nilssons stiftelse för medicinsk forskning.
  • 2009 - $10 000 AUD in project support from the Nilsson-Ehle donations.

Teaching interests

  • BIOC3003 - Human Molecular Genetics & Disease

Achievements and awards

  • 2016 Graz-Clock Award for best overall oral presentation, Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society
  • 2016 Chair Program Organising Commitee ADIPS annual scientific meeting, Gold Coast
  • 2014-current Council Member Society of Obstetric Medicine Australia and New Zealand

Researcher biography

Dr Marloes Dekker Nitert is a Senior Research Fellow at The University of Queensland. Marloes is a biomedical researcher with a PhD from Lund University in Sweden. Her research focuses on the role of metabolism in complications of pregnancy. She currently heads a laboratory research group at the UQ Centre for Clinical Research studying the role of the gut microbiome in pregnancy, the role of food additives on placental function and placental gene expression and epigenetic markers in pregnancy complications. Marloes works closely together with clinician-scientists and clinicians at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. She is part of the SPRING RCT team which assesses if probiotics can prevent gestational diabetes mellitus in overweight and obese women. Marloes is a scientific representative on the SOMANZ council.