Driven by a profound concern for individuals with allergies and a keen interest in anaphylaxis, Charles (Chase) F. Schuler IV, MD was drawn toward clinical and translational research.

Reflecting on personal experience, Schuler shared, “My dad had a tree nut allergy, so I found myself treating anaphylaxis (a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction) at home from a young age,” said Schuler.

Now a father himself, Dr. Schuler serves as an assistant professor in the division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology within the Department of Internal Medicine, as well as the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at the University of Michigan.

Born and raised in west Michigan, he moved to Ann Arbor when he was 18 and now lives here with his wife and two young boys. He calls himself a lifer, attending medical school, serving out his residency, and working nearly four years at U-M.

“My family experience put pursuing allergy research in my mind. I was on an MD pathway toward seeing patients in a clinical environment, but I loved working in a lab. I listened to my wife and realized that the research route felt like the right fit for me,” explains Schuler.

Schuler is proud of developing his research program, where he takes samples from people before and after undergoing food challenges. This approach has evolved into full spectrum research projects, with in vitro cell experimenting, mouse modeling, human sampling. His program is bolstered by excellent mentorship and the vast resources in the Medical School.

“How has MICHR helped me? Let me count the ways…” Schuler began. “Workshops including K Writing and Responsible Conduct of Research for K Awardees, multiple research development core consultations, a MICHR Catalyst Award, and REDCap training were all appreciated.”

In particular, database development with Sherece Bank, biostatistical support with Jonathan Troost, and participant recruitment via social media with Abbey Hammontree were instrumental. Nominating Dr. Nicholas Lukacs for his MICHR Distinguished Mentor Award was a wonderful experience for both.

He also expressed gratitude for the grant funding he has received, including the NIH/NIAID T32 career development award and a grant from the Gerber Foundation. Schuler finds the process of formulating and securing grants to be both rewarding and motivating, as it allows him to pursue his ideas while fostering independence.

One particularly notable and exciting research project Schuler is involved in centers around the development of a device called TEWL (TransEpidermal Water Loss), which shows promise as a novel tool for monitoring food-induced anaphylaxis. Preliminary results suggest that the device can detect anaphylaxis up to 40 minutes earlier than traditional methods. While further engineering is required, the ultimate goal is to create a wearable device that individuals can use when dining out or in any setting where food is served, enabling early detection of allergic reactions.

Working Backwards
In his research, Schuler takes preliminary biosample data from individuals and applies it to mouse and cell models. “I know it may seem unconventional to work in reverse, but I’ve never really done anything the conventional way in my life,” he jokingly remarked. Using RNA sequencing data, he investigates immunopathology markers, shedding light on the underlying mechanisms of allergies.

Schuler is currently involved in two significant initiatives through the Weiser Food Allergy Center:

  • MSIBS Birth Cohort – enrolling a large number of individuals before they’re born, along with their families. Involving kids with older siblings who have food allergy will allow researchers to better understand how the genes people carry interact with what we’re exposed to before and after we’re born, and how that makes food allergy happen.

  • Michigan Food Allergy Atopic Dermatitis – while it is now well known that allergy skin tests have high false positives, this study will use massive genetic data sets of bioinformation to untangle whether atopic dermatitis causes food allergies and how the immune system goes about its business when it interacts with food.

While acknowledging that completely eliminating allergies may be challenging, Schuler emphasizes the importance of effective management. He aspires to improve diagnostic capabilities and deepen our understanding of anaphylaxis by focusing on the role of the skin and other barriers.

Schuler points out how allergies can bring out the best in people, as individuals take great care to protect each other from potential allergic triggers. “People still demonstrate a profound concern for one another, especially for those we know and love,” Schuler remarked, highlighting the positive aspects that emerge amidst the challenges posed by allergies.