Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Justin Sprick

Dr. Justin Sprick is an Assistant professor in the Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and Recreation department. We sat down with him recently to talk more about his research. Check it out!

Q: What is your main research focus? 
A: My current project is funded by the American Heart Association and is focused on understanding how brain blood flow regulation may be altered in patients with kidney disease. Kidney disease patients have a much higher risk of stroke than those of the same age without kidney disease. One potential reason for this could be related to impairments in brain blood flow regulation. Although the brain is relatively small (only about 2% of body mass), it has an incredible metabolic demand, accounting for ~20 of overall metabolism. Because of this high demand, its’ equipped with several distinct mechanisms to help regulate its blood supply during various physiological perturbations (e.g., changes in blood pressure, changes in carbon dioxide). I am examining these mechanisms in kidney disease patients and comparing them to patients without kidney disease to help us determine where the problem is. If we find that these are impaired in kidney disease, this may identify novel targets for stroke prevention.  

As an additional aim, we are also looking at how exercise training may improve brain blood flow regulation in CKD. Participants will complete 12 weeks of either aerobic exercise training or stretching and balance exercise to see which (if any) metrics can be improved. This is novel because there have been no studies examining the effects of exercise training on cerebrovascular health in CKD. While we know that exercise is beneficial, we still don’t know the appropriate dose, timing, and ways that it works, particularly in this population (kidney disease). This study will help shed some light on that. 

Q: What do you have a background in? 
A: My interest in exercise physiology started over 15 years ago when I was a personal fitness trainer studying Kinesiology as an undergraduate. Since then, I've received graduate training in cerebrovascular physiology and post-doctoral experience implementing exercise training interventions in CKD. I will be able to leverage all these prior experiences throughout this project. 

Q: What are you most proud of in your research? 
A: I’m proud that I can work with people to improve their everyday life and have a direct impact on their health. I enjoy interacting with participants throughout the trial, and know that the findings from our research may lead to new avenues in stroke prevention.  

Q: What do you like about UNT? 
A: I like the collegial environment. Everyone is very enthusiastic, and my colleagues are incredibly supportive. I completed my PhD at the nearby UNT Health Science Center in 2018 and my family is also located in North Texas. It’s great to be back! 

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? 
A: I’m really into cooking. I have a smoker and I’ve been trying to perfect my brisket. I also enjoy being outdoors, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and spending time with my wife and dog.