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Lauren M. Sparks, PhD

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Dr. Lauren M. Sparks is an Investigator at the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Diabetes and Obesity Research Center at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (SBMRI), Lake Nona. 

As an Investigator at the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI), Dr. Lauren Sparks conducts her work in the area of exercise and muscle metabolism.  She is currently pursuing investigations on the topics of “exercise resistance”, as well as the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ communication between fat and muscle.  Dr. Sparks is interested in understanding why some individuals do not respond favorably to exercise as a means of improving their metabolism and related co-morbidities.  She aims to advance the field of exercise and type 2 diabetes and potentially shift the paradigm, allowing interventions to be targeted to those individuals most likely to benefit as well as identify novel approaches to treat those who do not.  Dr. Sparks is also interested in understanding the communication between muscle and fat tissue and how some individuals who are obese, but metabolically healthy, differ from those individuals who are obese and metabolically unhealthy.

Prior to joining the TRI, Dr. Sparks was a postdoctoral scientist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands from 2009-2012.  In her time at Maastricht University, Dr. Sparks pursued a rigorous training in understanding the connections between exercise and the function of mitochondria, which are the tiny “power houses” of the cell that are responsible for converting fat and carbohydrate into energy.  Dr. Sparks was extremely productive in her time at Maastricht University and had several successful publications in top tier journals.

From 2006-2009, Dr. Sparks was a postdoctoral fellow at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She received a training fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2007 and conducted a clinical exercise trial that investigated the effects of different types of exercise on the ability of the muscle to burn fat and carbohydrate more efficiently in men and women with type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Lauren Sparks was born in Patterson, Louisiana.  She earned a B.S. in Zoology and a B.A. in Spanish in 2002 and continued on to earn her PhD in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in molecular biology, in 2006 from Louisiana State University.

Selected Publications

  • Sparks, L.M., Johannsen, N.M., Zheng, Z., Earnest, C., Smith, S.R., Church, T.S., Ravussin, E.  (2013)  Determinants of the improvement in glycemic control with exercise training in type 2 diabetes.  PlosOne. In press.
  • Wu, J., Boström, P., Sparks, L.M., Ye, L., Choi, J.H., Giang, A., Khandekar, M., Nuutila, P., Schaart, G., van Marken Lichtenbelt, W.D., Hoeks, J., Enerbäck, S., Schrauwen, P. and Spiegelman, B.M.  (2012)  Beige Cells are a Third Type of Adipocyte in Mouse and Man.  Cell.  2012 Jul 20; 150(2):366-76.