Dr. Martens is interested in understanding the association between midlife cardiometabolic risk factors and late-life dementia with a primary focus on mechanisms of cerebrovascular dysfunction. His laboratory uses a range of techniques including cell culture, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate mechanisms of brain aging in humans. Dr. Martens is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the role of dietary added sugar intake on cerebral blood flow and brain tissue integrity in midlife adults and he is leading a clinical trial investigating a novel NAD+ boosting compound for improving brain health in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, a prodromal form of Alzheimer’s disease. He is also Director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research (DECCAR) which provides infrastructure for research on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias within the state of Delaware.
Industry Expertise (2)
Health and Wellness
Areas of Expertise (5)
Cerebral Blood Flow
Media Appearances (7)
Alzheimer's: Vitamin B supplementation could slow aging of neurons
Medical News Today online
If the brain cells can’t produce the energy they need to be able to function, then they can’t signal, and if nerve cells in the brain can’t signal effectively then cognition will be affected. Whether this is a cause of the disease or a symptom is unclear, said Dr. Christopher Martens, director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, and lead author of the current study.
Natural dietary supplement can reach the brain, may prevent onset of Alzheimer’s
“NAD+ is gradually lost as we get older or develop chronic diseases. Loss of NAD+ is linked to obesity and other negative lifestyle habits like smoking,” says Christopher Martens, an assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology and director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, in a university release. “Because more NAD+ is needed to counteract those negative consequences, it’s more likely to be depleted in the face of negative lifestyle habits.”
One step closer | UDaily
University of Delaware online
The discovery was made by Christopher Martens, assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology and director of the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, and Dr. Dimitrios Kapogiannis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Aging. The finding is significant because it supports the idea that NR, upon reaching the brain, can alter the metabolism of relevant biological pathways involved in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Their work, supported by an NIH grant, and in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH National Institute on Aging, was recently published in the journal Aging Cell.
These simple lifestyle strategies can profoundly impact your brain's health | Opinion
The News Journal online
Alzheimer’s disease is a top concern among aging adults and a growing societal problem in the United States, where 1 in 10 adults over the age of 45 report difficulties with memory or thinking. Currently, more than 6 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and twice as many will be affected by 2050. Fear of dementia has increased public demand for better treatments and has spurred a much-needed increase in federal funding for Alzheimer’s research that will hopefully lead to a cure for this devastating disease.
Research center for Alzheimer's and dementia launches at the University of Delaware
Delaware Public Media online
This week, Delaware Public Media's Joe Irizarry caught up with the center’s director Chris Martens about its mission.
Advancing Alzheimer's research | UDaily
University of Delaware online
Christopher Martens, assistant professor in the Kinesiology and Applied Physiology Department and director of the Neurovascular Aging Laboratory, and Matthew Cohen, associate professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, have founded the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the region, after recognizing this dire community need. The center received $150,000 in seed funding over three years from the College of Health Sciences Dean’s Office.
PODCAST: UDel advancing Alzheimer's research
We learn more about the Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research from Chris Martens, assistant professor in UD's Kinesiology and Applied Physiology Department.
Vascular determinants of hippocampal viscoelastic properties in healthy adults across the lifespanJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism
2023 Arterial stiffness and cerebrovascular pulsatility are non-traditional risk factors of Alzheimer's disease. However, there is a gap in understanding the earliest mechanisms that link these vascular determinants to brain aging. Changes to mechanical tissue properties of the hippocampus (HC), a brain structure essential for memory encoding, may reflect the impact of vascular dysfunction on brain aging. We tested the hypothesis that arterial stiffness and cerebrovascular pulsatility are related to HC tissue properties in healthy adults across the lifespan. Twenty-five adults underwent measurements of brachial blood pressure (BP), large elastic artery stiffness, middle cerebral artery pulsatility index (MCAv PI), and magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), a sensitive measure of HC viscoelasticity. Individuals with higher carotid pulse pressure (PP) exhibited lower HC stiffness (β = -0.39, r = -0.41, p = 0.05), independent of age and sex.
Oral nicotinamide riboside raises NAD+ and lowers biomarkers of neurodegenerative pathology in plasma extracellular vesicles enriched for neuronal originAging Cell
2023 Declining nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ ) concentration in the brain during aging contributes to metabolic and cellular dysfunction and is implicated in the pathogenesis of aging-associated neurological disorders. Experimental therapies aimed at boosting brain NAD+ levels normalize several neurodegenerative phenotypes in animal models, motivating their clinical translation. Dietary intake of NAD+ precursors, such as nicotinamide riboside (NR), is a safe and effective avenue for augmenting NAD+ levels in peripheral tissues in humans, yet evidence supporting their ability to raise NAD+ levels in the brain or engage neurodegenerative disease pathways is lacking. Here, we studied biomarkers in plasma extracellular vesicles enriched for neuronal origin (NEVs) from 22 healthy older adults who participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial (NCT02921659) of oral NR supplementation (500 mg, 2x /day, 6 weeks).
Blood lipid markers are associated with hippocampal viscoelastic properties and memory in humansJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism
2021 Age-related memory loss shares similar risk factors as cardiometabolic diseases including elevated serum triglycerides (TGs) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). The mechanisms linking these aberrant blood lipids to memory loss are not completely understood but may be partially mediated by reduced integrity of the hippocampus (HC), the primary brain structure for encoding and recalling memories. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that blood lipid markers are independently associated with memory performance and HC viscoelasticity-a noninvasive measure of brain tissue microstructural integrity assessed by high-resolution magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). Twenty-six individuals across the adult lifespan were recruited (14 M/12 F; mean age: 42 ± 15 y; age range: 22-78 y) and serum lipid profiles were related to episodic memory and HC viscoelasticity.
Chronic nicotinamide riboside supplementation is well-tolerated and elevates NAD+ in healthy middle-aged and older adultsNature Communications
2018 Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) has emerged as a critical co-substrate for enzymes involved in the beneficial effects of regular calorie restriction on healthspan. As such, the use of NAD+ precursors to augment NAD+ bioavailability has been proposed as a strategy for improving cardiovascular and other physiological functions with aging in humans. Here we provide the evidence in a 2 × 6-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial that chronic supplementation with the NAD+ precursor vitamin, nicotinamide riboside (NR), is well tolerated and effectively stimulates NAD+ metabolism in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Our results also provide initial insight into the effects of chronic NR supplementation on physiological function in humans, and suggest that, in particular, future clinical trials should further assess the potential benefits of NR for reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness in this group.
Cardiometabolic risk factors are associated with immune cell mitochondrial respiration in humansAmerican Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology
2020 Modifiable cardiometabolic risk factors induce the release of proinflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species from circulating peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), resulting in increased cardiovascular disease risk and compromised immune health. These changes may be driven by metabolic reprogramming of PBMCs, resulting in reduced mitochondrial respiration; however, this has not been fully tested. We aimed to determine the independent associations between cardiometabolic risk factors including BMI, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and plasma lipids with mitochondrial respiration in PBMCs isolated from generally healthy individuals (n = 21) across the adult lifespan (12 men/9 women; age, 56 ± 21 yr; age range, 22-78 yr; body mass index, 27.9 ± 5.7 kg/m2; blood pressure, 123 ± 16/72 ± 10 mmHg; glucose, 90 ± 14 mg/dL; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), 111 ± 22 mg/dL; and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), 62 ± 16 mg/dL).
Research Grants (2)
The effects of added sugar intake on brain blood flow and hippocampal function in midlife adults
NIH/NIGMS P20 GM113125 $1,034,979
NAD therapy for improving memory & cerebrovascular function in patients with MCI
NIH/NIA K01 AG054731 $665,685
Research Award, College of Health Sciences (professional)
Fellowship, Institute on Methods and Protocols for Advancement of Clinical Trials in ADRD (IMPACT-AD) (professional)
Early Investigator Award, North American Artery Society (professional)
University of Colorado Boulder: Postdoctoral Fellowship 2017
University of Delaware: PhD, Applied Physiology 2014
University of Delaware: BS, Exercise Science 2009
- Delaware Center for Cognitive Aging Research (DECCAR)
- UD Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE): Cardiovascular Health
- American Physiological Society (APS)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- American Heart Association (AHA)