Research Group >
Letter of thanks from the CHUM Scleroderma Research Group >
+ info

Letter of thanks from the CHUM Scleroderma Research Group


To Scleroderma Associations across Canada:

Dear valued supporters, 

On behalf of the CHUM Scleroderma Research Group, I wish to express our deepest gratitude for your generous donations in support of the purchase of a Rhapsody apparatus from Becton Dickinson.

I am most pleased to inform you that the Rhapsody has been acquired according to plan and is now operative in the Immunoregulation Laboratory (headed by Marika Sarfati, MD, PhD) on the 12th floor of the CHUM Research Center in Montreal. Drs Sarfati and Heena Mehta, PhD, have already run preliminary experiments.

Here is a picture of the Rhapsody and its accompanying module (the Rhapsody Express), taken on July 28th as myself and the team members spent several hours with Drs Sarfati and Mehta to get acquainted with this cutting-edge technology.


The Rhapsody is an advanced analytical system that identifies the expression of genes in thousands of individual cells that are studied in parallel.

The Rhapsody allows analysis of the full transcriptomic signature (i.e. all
the genes) of each cell. It works in tandem with the Symphony, another apparatus previously acquired thanks to a generous donation from Sclérodermie Québec, that identifies each cell according to certain phenotypic criteria.

The cells studied include, for example, blood cells as well as cells from skin biopsies obtained from scleroderma patients.

In lay language, using a biological sample that contains thousand of cells, we can now separate and study each cell based on its external features (proteins at the cell surface) and internal characteristics (gene expression).

Individualized cellular analysis was not possible previously on such a large scale as can be seen in this screenshot (under the heading Analysis) of our sample of human blood cells, 22,431 cells were counted and determined as viable by the Rhapsody.


The Rhapsody couples each cell to a bead bearing a unique bar code and then distributes each cell coupled to its bar-coded bead to a single microwell in a cartridge containing 250,000 microwells.

This is shown in the picture (right) where the wells are recognized by their hexagonal shape: it can be seen that several wells contain a single bead (to which is attached a single cell, that is little or not visible).

Several wells are unoccupied as we had 22,431 cells for 250,000 microwells.

It is this unique separation process that allows subsequent transcriptomic (gene expression) analysis at the single cell level.


As one can imagine, the results generated by this technology are extremely complex and require bioinformatics and sophisticated software for analysis and interpretation, as well as time!

As you know, our objective with this state-of-the-art technology is to establish the immune identity card of individual scleroderma patients. In time, this will allow to move toward more personalized therapy of scleroderma. 

Again, we express our sincere gratitude to you all for your invaluable assistance in acquiring this cutting-edge technology.

Best regards,

Jean-Luc Senécal, MD, FRCPC, MCRA

Scleroderma Research Chair
Professor of Medicine
University of Montreal Faculty of Medicine
Autoimmunity Research Laboratory
Research Center of the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)