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Adipose tissue may be the source of inflammatory factors that aggravate COVID-19

Adipose tissue may be the source of inflammatory factors that aggravate COVID-19

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Preliminary results of patient tissue analysis show that the virus infects adipocytes and alters the quantity of signaling molecules released by these cells into the bloodstream

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Credit: Rodolfo Marinho

There is growing evidence that adipose tissue plays a key role in the aggravation of COVID-19. One of the theories under investigation is that fat cells (adipocytes) act as a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and increase viral load in obese or overweight individuals. Scientists also suspect that during infection fat cells release into the bloodstream substances that boost the inflammatory reaction triggered by the virus in the organism.

These hypotheses are being investigated by researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil under the coordination of Marilia Cerqueira Leite Seelaender, a professor in the Department of Clinical Surgery. Peter Ratcliffe, a professor at the University of Oxford in the UK and one of the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Medicine, is collaborating.

“A cytokine storm resulting in systemic inflammation similar to sepsis occurs in some severe COVID-19 patients. We believe these inflammatory factors come from adipose tissue. It’s been shown that when adipocytes expand too much, they can cause inflammation throughout the body, even in the brain,” Seelaender told Agência FAPESP.

The FM-USP group analyzed samples of adipose tissue obtained from autopsies of people who died from COVID-19, and also from patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 who had to be submitted to emergency surgery at the university’s hospital for appendicitis or other reasons not related to the viral infection. Preliminary results confirmed that the virus can be found in fat cells, whose membranes are rich in ACE-2, the main receptor used by the virus to invade human cells. The researchers have yet to confirm that once it has invaded adipocytes, it can remain there long enough to replicate inside them.

“It’s worth noting that visceral adipocytes [located deep in the abdomen and around internal organs] have much more ACE2 than subcutaneous adipose tissue,” Seelaender said. “In addition, they’re much more inflammatory. As a result, visceral obesity tends to be even more harmful as far as COVID-19 is concerned.”

The preliminary findings also brought to light a change in the pattern of exosome secretion in the adipose tissue of infected people. Exosomes are extracellular vesicles, comparable to tiny bubbles, released by cells into the bloodstream with proteins and other types of signaling molecules. This is one of the mechanisms whereby information is exchanged between different tissues as the body adapts to changes in its environment.

The aims of the research conducted by the FM-USP group include investigating whether infection by SARS-CoV-2 makes adipocytes release more exosomes containing inflammatory factors. So far it has shown that the number of vesicles released into the bloodstream does indeed increase. The researchers will now analyze the contents of these circulating vesicles, as well as those remaining inside cells. They also plan to investigate the inflammatory pathways presumably activated by these molecules.

“We first assumed that as a person gets fat, their adipose tissue becomes hypoxic, meaning the person has less oxygen available. Hypoxia is itself a cause of inflammation, so one of the things we want to investigate is whether COVID-19 causes hypoxia in adipocytes,” Seelaender said.

Research on how human cells adapt to hypoxia won Ratcliffe the Nobel with William G. Kaelin (Harvard University) and Gregg Semenza (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine). Currently, his work focuses on analyzing autopsy samples to find out how SARS-CoV-2 affects the carotid body, a cluster of chemoreceptors and supporting cells in the carotid artery that function as an oxygen sensor. When it senses that blood oxygen levels are too low, the carotid body activates responses that raise heart and respiratory rates.

Ratcliffe believes the virus infects the carotid body and impairs its functioning, which explains why many COVID-19 patients are slow to recognize they are hypoxic, not least because they do not feel short of breath (“silent hypoxia”).

The FM-USP group, meanwhile, is concentrating on an effort to understand the effect of infection on adipose tissue. “We’re analyzing everything secreted by fat cells: proteins, saturated fatty acids, prostaglandins [lipids with diverse hormone-like effects], microRNAs [small non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression] and exosomes,” Seelaender said.

Inflammatory factors released by adipose tissue in COVID-19 patients may be the cause of damage to the heart, lungs, and nervous system described in such patients, she added. “Our hypothesis is that obese COVID-19 patients undergo a similar process to that observed in the adipose tissue of patients with cachexia [significant rapid weight loss and muscle wasting associated with AIDS, heart failure and cancer, among other diseases],” she said. “Adipocytes in cachexic individuals release more exosomes, and their contents are altered so that they have a pro-inflammatory profile. We know there’s inflammation in both cachexia and obesity. The difference lies in the type of inflammatory mediator released and the signaling pathways activated.”

Seelaender and her group have been researching the links between cachexia and inflammation since 2013 with FAPESP’s support.

Opposite but similar

In an article published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, Seelaender and her group discuss how nutritional status can influence a patient’s response to COVID-19. According to the authors, both obesity and malnutrition – including cachexia and sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass associated with aging) – can impair the immune response and prevent the organism from combating viral infection.

“Immune cells require more energy during an infectious process, especially if the body takes a long time to overcome it. Their metabolism needs to change so that they can multiply rapidly, but in an undernourished organism, this isn’t possible. During an infection the number of T-lymphocytes in a malnourished individual is much smaller than in a eutrophic [well-nourished] individual,” Seelaender said.

Moreover, she continued, undernourished organisms suffer from atrophy of the lymphoid organs (especially bone marrow, thymus and lymph nodes), in which the lymphocytes are produced and reach maturity. As a result, the number of circulating defense cells declines. Experiments with animals have also shown that an organism suffering from malnutrition takes longer to eliminate viruses.

“Fat can be a problem when it’s excessive or insufficient. However paradoxical it may seem, both extremes are dangerous,” she explained. “Adipose tissue secretes leptin, a hormone that regulates T-lymphocyte metabolism. Leptin signaling falls in a body with very low fat. Excessively high fat makes cells less sensitive to leptin, so the amount of leptin released rises sharply.”

Aging affects several of the factors mentioned by Seelaender. The immune system becomes less responsive. Skeletal muscle mass dwindles, visceral fat increases, and the proportion between lean and fat mass worsens.

“Loss of lean mass can worsen the outcome of chronic and acute diseases in older people. Muscle is a reservoir of energy substrate [amino acids] that can be mobilized at times of need, such as during an infection,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to stress that not just adiposity but also the lean-to-fat mass ratio is a problem in COVID-19 patients. If a person has a lot of fat and little muscle, it’s worse than if they have a lot of fat but a good muscular condition.”

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About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at http://www.fapesp.br/en and visit FAPESP news agency at http://www.agencia.fapesp.br/en to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at http://agencia.fapesp.br/subscribe.

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Heloisa Reinert
hreinert@fapesp.br

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https://agencia.fapesp.br/34625/

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa125

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Oil Prices Surge Past $113 As Shanghai Signals End Of Lockdown

Oil Prices Surge Past $113 As Shanghai Signals End Of Lockdown

By Charles Kennedy of OilPrice.com,

Oil prices have topped $113 per barrel…

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Oil Prices Surge Past $113 As Shanghai Signals End Of Lockdown

By Charles Kennedy of OilPrice.com,

Oil prices have topped $113 per barrel on optimism that China’s lockdowns are coming to an end and demand will not take a prolonged hit. 

In early afternoon markets Monday, news that Shanghai was seeing a strong recovery from COVID cases, with plans in place to ease lockdown restrictions beginning this week, outweighed a litany of bearish news for oil. 

Brent was at $113.97 per barrel on 3:20 pm EST, while WTI was trading at $113.77.

WTI neared $115...

Authorities in Shanghai on Monday said restrictions would finally ease, in stages, after nearly six weeks of lockdowns that have shaken the Chinese economy and disrupted global supply chains.

On 1 June, Shanghai is scheduled to see lockdowns end, with a gradual easing beginning on May 21st. 

“From June 1 to mid- and late June, as long as risks of a rebound in infections are controlled, we will fully implement epidemic prevention and control, normalise management and fully restore normal production and life in the city,” the Guardian quoted deputy mayor Zong Ming as saying Monday. 

The announcement comes shortly after downward pressure was put on oil prices over new releases of weak Chinese economic data and signals that the European Union’s plans to ban Russian oil had faltered.

On Monday, China published official economic data, showing a significant slowdown, with industrial output falling by nearly 3% year-on-year in April, and retail sales down by around 11%. Shanghai’s port volumes were also down by 40%, according to DW.  

All of this has led to a decline in demand for oil coming out of China. 

However, according to new data from the Saudi Arabia-based Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), global oil demand surpassed pre-pandemic levels in March, at 101%, despite declines in Chinese demand. However, the report noted that crude oil production was at 97% of pre-COVID levels. The data is based on submissions that account for 70% of global oil demand and 55% of global crude production. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 17:05

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Economics

What Is Quantitative Tightening? How Does It Work?

What Is Quantitative Tightening?The main job of a central bank, like the Federal Reserve, is to keep the economy strong through maximum employment and…

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Quantitative tightening is not the opposite of quantitative easing—they are distinctly different activities.

Ballun from Getty Images Signature; Canva

What Is Quantitative Tightening?

The main job of a central bank, like the Federal Reserve, is to keep the economy strong through maximum employment and stable prices. It does this by managing the Fed Funds Rate, which it sets at its Federal Open Market Committee meetings. This effectively raises or lowers the interest rates that banks offer companies and consumers for things like mortgages, student loans, and credit cards.

But when the economy needs help and interest rates are already low, the Fed must turn to other tools in its arsenal. This includes practices like quantitative easing and quantitative tightening; the former expands the shares of Treasury bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and even stocks on the government’s balance sheets, while the latter tightens the monetary supply. Both have a profound effect on liquidity in the financial markets.

The Fed came to the rescue with trillions of dollar’s worth of quantitative easing at the end of the 2007–2008 Financial Crisis, and again during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

But the Fed can’t go on printing money forever. Whenever it employs quantitative easing, the Fed must eventually turn to its counterpart, which is known as quantitative tightening, in order to limit some of the negative outcomes of the former, such as inflation.

How Does Quantitative Tightening Work? What Is an Example of Quantitative Tightening?

Through quantitative tightening, the Federal Reserve reduces its supply of monetary reserves in order to tighten its balance sheet—and it does so simply by letting the bonds and other securities it has purchased reach maturity. When this happens, the Treasury department removes them from its cash balances, and thus the money it has “created” effectively disappears.

Does the Fed know exactly when to ease the gas pedal on quantitative easing? According to the Fed, timing is everything. Remember how the Fed’s main job is to create a strong economy through stable prices and high employment? As it carefully monitors the effects interest rates are having on the economy, it also keeps a close eye on the overall measure of inflation. It’s both a constant battle and a juggle. 

Take the period following the Financial Crisis as an example. The 2007–2008 crisis stemmed in large part from the implosion of collateralized debt obligations, and so the Fed kept the Fed Funds Rate at virtually 0% for almost a decade in order to spur growth and maintain stable rates of employment.

During this period, it also undertook a series of quantitative easing measures, watching its balance sheet balloon from $870 billion in August 2007 to $4.5 trillion in September 2017.

The FRED graph below illustrates how the Fed Funds rate, in blue, remained at nearly zero for the period while the total size of the Fed’s balance sheet, in red, grew. The shaded areas indicate recession.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Effective Federal Funds Rate [EFFR], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/EFFR, May 16, 2022.

The Fed believed that as soon as employment became stable, it needed to turn its attention to meeting its 2% inflation target, which it accomplished by raising interest rates. And so, in October 2015, it began gradually increasing the Fed Funds Rate in 25 basis point increments. Over the next several years, rates went up from 0.0%–0.25% levels to 2.25%–2.5% in 2018. This course of action, in the Fed’s words, was known as liftoff.

After raising rates a few times with no disastrous consequences, in 2017 the Fed next embarked on an effort to reduce its balance sheet through quantitative tightening. This was also known as unwinding its balance sheet, because it was taking action in a slow and gradual way.

Between 2017 and 2019, the Fed let about $6 billion of Treasury securities mature and $4 billion of mortgage-backed securities “run off” per month, increasing that amount every quarter until it hit a maximum of $30 billion Treasuries and $20 billion mortgage-backed securities per month. By July 2019, the Fed announced that its unwinding was complete.

The Fed published a blog post detailing these efforts, categorizing them as its “balance sheet normalization program,” since it sought to “return the policy rate to more neutral levels.”

What Effect Does Quantitative Tightening Have on the Economy?

While the goal of quantitative easing is to spur growth, quantitative tightening doesn’t hinder it; in fact, many Governors of the Federal Reserve believe quantitative tightening doesn’t have much effect on the economy at all.

“Quantitative tightening does not have equal and opposite effects from quantitative easing,” said St. Louis Fed President Jim Bullard, “Indeed, one may view the effects of unwinding the balance sheet as relatively minor.”

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen famously described quantitative tightening as “something that will just run quietly in the background over a number of years,” and that “it’ll be like watching paint dry.”

St. Louis Fed Research Director Chris Waller compared quantitative tightening with “slowly opening the stopper in a drain and letting the water run out,” and by doing so, they were “letting the supply of U.S. Treasuries in the hands of the private sector grow.”

But critics have argued that the excess reserves the Fed creates by “printing money” through quantitative easing have negative consequences on the overall economy. For example, these reserves can lead to currency devaluation and higher inflation, which is defined as when prices rise faster than wages. Inflation can have disastrous effects on an economy, resulting in asset bubbles and even recessions.

Even the Fed admitted as much when St. Louis Vice President Chris Neely noted that between 2008–13, the Fed’s asset purchases led to a decrease in 10-Year Treasury yields by 100–200 basis points. He said, “this reduction modestly raised prices and real activity.”

Just remember that the Fed’s principal aims are to generate stable prices and high employment. So while the Fed hasn’t explicitly said so, reducing its balance sheet might be one of its methods to combat inflation.

Why Is Quantitative Tightening on the Fed’s Agenda Again?

In 2022, inflation reached decades’ high, stemming from a number of factors, including fallout from the global Coronavirus pandemic, which increased labor prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which affected energy and commodities. In March, 2020, the Fed slashed the Fed Funds rate to 0.00%–0.25% in response to the pandemic. In May, 2022 it raised rates again by 0.5%.

What Is the Schedule for Quantitative Tightening?

On May 4, 2022, the Fed announced it would be undertaking a “phased approach” of quantitative tightening measures beginning with a 3-month period of unwinding $30 billion of Treasuries and $17.5 billion mortgage-backed securities beginning on June 1, 2022. By September, 2022 these caps would increase to $60 billion and $35 billion, respectively.

Is Quantitative Tightening Really So Frightening?

TheStreet’s Ellen Chang says that, according to economists, inflation is on a downward trend, most likely to decline to 3% by the end of the year, and that higher interest rates as well as quantitative tightening should do what they’re supposed to, and reduce pricing pressure. 

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Economics

Recession-Proof Stocks To Buy Now? 4 Retail Stocks To Know

These retail stocks could be in focus ahead of April’s retail sales data.
The post Recession-Proof Stocks To Buy Now? 4 Retail Stocks To Know appeared…

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Do You Have These Top Retail Stocks On Your Radar This Week?

As we begin another week of trading in the stock market, retail stocks appear to be in focus. Investors can expect plenty of action from the sector as Walmart, Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW), and many other consumer juggernauts are expected to report their earnings. In fact, Dillard’s (NYSE: DDS) has already set the tone last week after announcing favorable first-quarter financials. The company reported a comparable retail sales growth of 23% year-over-year and a record high retail gross margin of 47.3%. Aside from that, April’s retail sales report is also scheduled to be released on Tuesday. Hence, it would not be surprising that investors are paying close attention to the retail sector this week.

Now that the world is returning to normalcy, many would expect retailers to see a strong rebound from their pandemic struggles. For instance, Seattle-based Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) recently announced plans to open a new Nordstrom Rack in the spring of next year. The new store will be a mixed-use complex in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It will be part of the heart of the area that features other top retailers such as LA Fitness, Regal Cinemas, Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ: ULTA), and others. With all said and done, retail companies will likely stay relevant if they can keep up with the times. So, here are some of the top retail stocks in the stock market today worth checking out. 

Retail Stocks To Watch This Week

Walmart

Walmart is among the top retail names in the stock market. Put simply, the company offers shopping opportunities in both retail stores and through e-commerce and provides access to its other service offerings. Moreover, the company often promotes its services at everyday low prices to attract the interest of consumers. Elsewhere, its International segment includes various formats that include supercenters, supermarkets, hypermarkets, and e-commerce entities. Now, all eyes are on WMT stock ahead of its first-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, May 17. 

Furthermore, the company has also been actively promoting its Walmart+ membership program. Late in April, Walmart announced that Walmart+ members will be eligible for lower fuel costs with a bigger discount per gallon at the pump at more than 14,000 fuel stations nationwide. With the addition of 12,000 Exxon and Mobil locations across the U.S., its members will save 10 cents per gallon at participating Exxon and Mobil locations. Also, Murphy and Walmart U.S. stations will offer a reduction of 5 to 10 cents per gallon. Considering these, would you be investing in WMT stock ahead of its earnings report?

WMT STOCK
Source: TD Ameritrade TOS

[Read More] Best Social Media Stocks To Buy Now? 4 To Watch This Week

Lululemon

Another top retail company to note right now is Lululemon. For those unaware, the company is a designer, distributor, and retailer of lifestyle-inspired athletic apparel and accessories. On a sense of scale, the company has approximately 575 stores in 17 countries around the globe. Most of its retail stores are either located in on-street locations, lifestyle centers, or within shopping malls. With that being said, Lululemon has been making several positive strides in the right direction over the past month. For starters, the company announced the nationwide expansion of lululemon Like New in April. 

This marks the brand’s first trade-in and resale program that is now available to all guests across the U.S. The company plans to reinvest all of its profits to support the company’s commitment to making 100 percent of its products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030. On top of that, Lululemon also announced that it plans to double its 2021 revenue of $6.25 billion to $12.5 billion within the next five years. It believes that significant growth can be expected across key pillars such as product innovation, guest experience, and market expansion. For example, the company’s Power of Three x2 growth strategy plans to double men’s and digital revenues and quadruple international revenues relative to 2021. Given these plans, should investors be keeping a closer tab on LULU stock now?

LULU stock chart
Source: TD Ameritrade TOS

Home Depot

Following that, let us have a look at the home improvement retailer, Home Depot. In detail, the company offers an assortment of building materials, lawn and garden products, decor products, home improvement products, and many more. Besides that, the company also provides several services such as home installation services, and tool and equipment rental. With approximately 2,300 stores throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world, the company is no stranger to most consumers. However, HD stock has been trading sideways over the past month. Investors are likely hoping that a strong earnings report on Tuesday may change the sentiment for the stock. 

Earlier this month, Home Depot announced a partnership with Bonnie Plants and AmpleHarvest.org. For the uninitiated, Bonnie Plants is the largest grower of vegetables and herb plants for home gardens in the U.S. The collaboration aims to empower gardeners to grow and donate to local food pantries. So, gardeners can ensure they will have an abundance of amazing harvest by expanding their garden with the Bonnie Plants Harvest Select line that is available exclusively at Home Depot. It is also noteworthy that UBS recently set a price target of $360 on HD stock, representing an upside of about 20%. All things considered, would HD stock be worth watching right now?

HD stock
Source: TD Ameritrade TOS

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Foot Locker

Lastly, we have the shoes and apparel retailer to sum up the list, Foot Locker. In brief, the company uses its omnichannel capabilities to bridge the digital world and physical stores. As such, it provides buy online and pickup-in-store services, order-in-store, as well as the growing trend of e-commerce. Well, some of its most notable brands include Eastbay, Footaction, Foot Locker, Champs Sports, and Sidestep.

Not long ago, the company and one of the leading sports brands in the world, Adidas, announced a new and enhanced partnership. This new collaboration will be built around product innovation, deeper consumer connectivity, and overall better experiences. Moving forward, Foot Locker will be the lead partner for Adidas in the basketball category. Additionally, the partnership will target over $2 billion in retail sales over the next three years. Given such exciting developments, do you think FL stock could see brighter days ahead soon?

FL stock chart
Source: TD Ameritrade TOS

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The post Recession-Proof Stocks To Buy Now? 4 Retail Stocks To Know appeared first on Stock Market News, Quotes, Charts and Financial Information | StockMarket.com.

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