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Steven Tracy

Dr. Steven Tracy

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Dr. Steven Tracy is a Professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s department of Pathology and Microbiology. Dr. Tracy’s laboratory focuses on the group B coxsackieviruses (or CVB), a group of six enterovirus serotypes that are common causes of serious human diseases. At present, there are approximately 100 known different human enterovirus (HEV) serotypes - with the list continually growing - a need exists to understand the relationship of important HEV to diverse human diseases. Examples of diseases caused by CVB are myocarditis (inflammation of the muscles of the heart), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and type 1 (juvenile or insulin-dependent) diabetes (T1D). Dr. Tracy’s work has been funded in the past by the NIH, American Heart Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association.

Dr. Tracy’s laboratory uses a system of modeling to help study coxsackievirus pathogenesis. Through his studies, he has discovered that by using inoculation (the introduction to the body the causative organism of a disease) it may be possible a naturally-occurring, common virus infection in humans might help to halt, not induce, T1D. This suggests an approach to vaccinating to lower the odds of developing T1D in humans. In other work, in collaboration with Dr. Nora Chapman, the CVB have been shown to persist through a novel mechanism involving deletion of the terminal genomic sequence. The CVB are generally believed to cause acute infections: that is, the virus infects, sometimes induces a nasty disease, but is then cleared by the adaptive immune response and does not persist in the immune host. However, HEV are known to persist for long periods of time (weeks to months) in heart tissue of naturally infected humans following myocarditis: discovery of this mechanism explains these observations.

Dr. Tracy formed the Enterovirus Research Laboratory, a collaborative group of four UNMC researchers that investigate different aspects of the biologies of human enteroviruses. The goal of the Enterovirus Research Laboratory is to apply their diverse research interests and talents to understand basic questions of enterovirus biology. These results can then be applied to defeating enterovirus-induced disease and be used to complement and extend their knowledge of these important human viruses.