“It’s that first—spark,” Dr. Schumacher says, holding up his hand and snapping his fingers. “That moment when you realize you’re the first person to see that a particular pathway exists.” He breaks into a huge grin. “That is soooo fun!”
But that thrill of discovery isn’t the only thing driving Dr. Schumacher in his research. His biggest motivator? The chance to help patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a group of conditions characterized by chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
His lab is investigating one part of that tract: the colon, which is often severely afflicted in this disease. Supported by a K01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, he is studying a cell type called deep crypt secretory cells.
“Very little is known about factors in the colon that may predispose a person to developing IBD,” Dr. Schumacher explains. “I’m trying to understand how these cells help maintain colon health and how they might be dysregulated in people with IBD.”
He recently published a novel finding showing that deep crypt secretory cells secrete a protein called RELM-beta, which is known to impact gut bacteria. He also plans to use patient samples to grow organoids—miniature colons—to better study these cells.
“We’re in the early stages,” Dr. Schumacher says. “But my long-term hope is that our discoveries can lead to more targeted and effective treatments for this disease.”
His love of scientific discovery dates back to his youth in Columbus, Ohio, when he would peer into his microscope to uncover an “invisible world.” After completing a PhD in gastrointestinal physiology at the University of Cincinnati, he came to CHLA in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow under Mark Frey, PhD, and joined the faculty in 2021.
Outside of the lab, his main outlet is running. Dr. Schumacher has completed seven marathons, including five L.A. Marathons. However, he skipped this year’s race. Why? “No sleep!” he says, laughing. He and his wife, CHLA Hospitalist Namrata Ahuja, MD, have a 7-month-old baby.