Departments of Cell Biology and Anatomy/Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Director, Microscopy and Imaging Facility
Airways Inflammation Research Group
Faculty of Medicine
University of Calgary
3280 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 4Z6
Tel: (403) 210-8177
Fax: (403) 210-8192

Institute Affiliations
Institute for Inflammation Immunity and Infection



A) Pulmonary Surfactant Function and Dysfunction
We established an important surfactant inhibition mechanism and explained it at the molecular level. Moreover, the follow up work led to the discovery of a potential treatment.

B) The Interaction of Nanosized Airosols with the Lung
We discovered that the distribution of the electrical surface potential of pulmonary surfactant at the air-lung interface is highly structured and influences strongly how nanosized particles are retained in the lung (together with my collaborator Dr. Leonenko).

C) Single Cell Force Spectroscopy
My lab uses single cell force spectroscopy to reveal whether, and how, particles of specific properties interact with the cells of the alveolar wall. This method was largely expanded by my collaborator Dr. Shi’s lab, in an application to immunology (published in Immunity and discussed in Science in the Editors’ choice section, and was cited in Nature, Nature Review Immunology and Faculty 1000 only four months after print).


Journal Articles:
1. Gilbert Ng; Karan Sharma; Sandra Ward; Melanie Desrosiers; Leslie Stephens; W.Michael Schoel; Tonglei Li; Clifford Lowell; Chang-Chun Ling; Matthias Amrein; Yan Shi, Receptor-independent, direct membrane cholesterol binding leads to cell surface lipid sorting and dendritic cell activation, Immunity, Volume 29(5), 2008, 807-818

2. Francis Hane, Brad Moores, Matthias Amrein, Zoya Leonenko, Effect of SP-C on surface potential distribution in pulmonary surfactant: Atomic force microscopy and Kelvin-probe force microscopy study. Ultramicroscopy, published online doi:10.1016/j.ultramic.2009.03.046

3. Zoya Leonenko and Matthias Amrein. The electrical surface potential of pulmonary surfactant. invited, peer-reviewed review, Frontiers in Bioscience 4:4337-47, 2009

4. Jillian Sherley, Matthias Amrein and Zoya Leonenko. Pulmonary Surfactant Self-Assembles into a Functional Film of Defined Molecular Architecture Irrespective of Concentration and Solvent of the Spreading Solution: A fluorescence light and atomic force microscopy study. Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, Volume 4, Number 2, June 2008 , pp. 210-216(7)

5. Yi Y. Zuo, Seyed M. Tadayyon, Eleonora Keating, Lin Zhao, Ruud Veldhuizen, Nils O. Petersen, Matthias Walter Amrein, and Fred Possmayer, Atomic force microscopy studies of functional and dysfunctional pulmonary surfactant films. (2008) II. Albumin-inhibited pulmonary surfactant films and the effect of SP-A. Biophysical Journal 95, 2779-2791.

6. Froese DS, Wu X, Zhang J, Dumas R, Schoel WM, Amrein M and Gravel RA. Restricted role for methionine synthase reductase defined by subcellular localization. (2008) Mol Genet Metab (94) 1, 68-77

7. Lasantha Gunasekara, W. Michael Schoel, Samuel Schürch and Matthias Amrein. A comparative study of the mechanisms of pulmonary surfactant inhibition. (2008) BBA Biomembranes 1778, 433-444

8. L. Zhou, Y.F. Cheng, and M. Amrein Fabrication by electrolytic deposition of platinum black electrocatalyst for oxidation of ammonia in alkaline solution (2008), Journal of Power Sources, 177(1), 50-55

9. Jana Doehner, Dave Schriemer and Matthias Amrein. A simple method for producing free-standing, optically dense aluminium foils with randomly distributed 100-nm physical through holes for biomedical applications. (2007) J Biomed Nanotech 3(3) 289-290

10. Svetlana Baoukina, Luca Monticelli, Matthias Amrein and D. Peter Tieleman. Monolayer-bilayer transformations of lung surfactant from molecular dynamics simulations. (2007) Biophysical Journal, 93(11) 3775-3782.

11. Ranjit Prakash, Matthias Amrein, and Karan Vis Kaler. Characteristics of protein adsorption on surfaces for droplet based microfluidic devices. (2008) Microfluidics and Nanofluidics (4) 4, 295-305

12. Zoya Leonenko, M. Amrein and Eric Finot. (2007) Determination of the molecular architecture of Supported Lipid-Protein Films using Atomic Force Microscopy and Spectroscopic Ellipsometry, Microsc Microanal 13(Suppl 2), 1588-1589

13. Zoya Leonenko, Eric Finot, and M. Amrein. (2007) Adhesive interaction measured between an AFM probe and lung epithelial type II cells. Ultramicroscopy 107(10-11) 948-53.

14. Zoya Leonenko, Simardeep Gill, Svetlana Baoukina, Luca Monticelli, Jana Doehner, Lasantha Gunasekara, Florian Felderer, Mathias Rodenstein, Lukas M. Eng, Matthias Amrein (2007) An elevated level of cholesterol impairs self assembly of pulmonary surfactant into a functional film. Biophysical Journal 93(2) 674-683

15. Zoya Leonenko, Matthias Rodenstein, Lukas Eng, and Matthias Amrein (2006) The surface potential of pulmonary surfactant. Langmuir 22(24) 10135-10139

16. Zoya Leonenko, Eric Finot, Vladislav Vassiliev, Matthias Amrein (2006) Effect of cholesterol on the physical properties of pulmonary surfactant films: atomic force measurements study. Ultramicroscopy 106 (8-9) 687-69

17. Bachofen, H., Gerber, U., Gehr, Amrein, M., P., Schurch, S. (2005) Structures of surfactant films adsorbed to an air-liquid interface in vitro, BBA 1720, 59-72.

18. Lasantha Gunasekara, Samuel Schürch, W. Michael Schoel, Kaushik Nag, Zoya Leonenko, Michael Haufs and Matthias Amrein, Pulmonary surfactant function is abolished by an elevated proportion of cholesterol, (2005) BBA 1737(1): 27-35.

19. Schurch, S., Gehr, P., Bachofen, H., Amrein, M., and Geiser, M. (2004) Surface tension and particle displacement in the pulmonary conducting airways. Appl Cardiopulm Pathophysiol 13(1):81-83.

Book Chapters:
1. Matthias Amrein, Peter Gerber, Samuel Schurch, Francis Green, The passage of ultrafine aerosols across the pulmonary surfactant film Particle-Lung Interactions, Second Edition, (the “Work”) edited by Peter Gehr, PhD; Fabian Blank, PhD; Christian Mühlfeld, MD; and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser, PhD, to be published by Informa Healthcare USA, Inc., in press

2. Matthias Amrein. Ultrastructure Imaging. In: Advanced Imaging in Biology and Medicine. Ed. Sensen, Ch. And Hallgrimson, B. Springer, Heidelberg, 2008

3. Zoya Leonenko, David Cramb, Matthias Amrein and Eric Finot. Atomic force microscopy: interaction forces measured in phospholipid monolayers, bilayers and cell membranes. In: Applied Scanning Probe Methods, Vol. 8-10 Edited by B. Bhushan, H. Fuchs, and M. Tomitori Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, in press

4. Zoya Leonenko, Eric Finot, Matthias Rodenstein, Lukas Eng, and Matthias Amrein. Developments in scanning probe microscopy in application to molecular films of pulmonary surfactant. Ed. S.G. Pandalai Recent Res. Devel. Biophys 5 (1), Transworld Research Network, Kerala, India, 2007

5. Amrein, M. AFM in the life sciences. In: The science of microscopy. P. W. Hawkes, and J. C. H. Spence, editors. Springer, NY. 2007

6. Amrein, M., Knebel, D. and Haufs, M. Structure and Function of the Molecular Film of Pulmonary Surfactant at the Air-Alveolar interface: The role of SP-C. in: Molecular Mechanisms in Lung Surfactant (Dys)Function, Marcel Dekker Inc., NY, Lung Biology Series, 2005.

Recent Talks/Guest Speaker:
1. How nanosized aerosols enter the lung and interact with the body: A spectroscopic insight into the forces governing particle-lung interactions. Biophysics Seminar Series, Department of Physics, University of Waterloo, Ontario, April 1, 2009

2. Single Cell Force Spectroscopy: Seminar in “New Frontiers in Electron Microscopy”, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), March 23, 2009

3. A comparative study of mechanisms of surfactant inhibition: i-CLIIP conference on surfactant, May 21, 2008 Toronto (best oral presentation award)

4. Molecular mechanisms of surfactant inhibition, Invited Seminar, Inselspital Bern, June 26, 2007

5. Molecular mechanisms of surfactant inhibition, Invited Seminar, Nycomed, Konstanz July 2, 2007

6. Molecular mechanisms of surfactant inhibition, Invited Seminar, Anatomisches Institut Bern, June 25, 2007

7. Molecular mechanisms of surfactant inhibition, Surfactant 2007. International Floating Congress Hamburg, Germany, 02.07.–09.07.2007

8. Biomedical NanoScience at the University of Calgary, UofA, Physics Department and NINT, Edmonton, December 10, 2003 .

9. The Structure and Function of Pulmonary Surfactant. M. Amrein, Invited Seminars, Memorial University, St. Johns, Newfoundland, March 2005

10. The Structure and Function of Pulmonary Surfactant: Methods. M. Amrein, Invited Seminars, Memorial University, St. Johns, Newfoundland, March 2005

11. The role of cholesterol in structure and function of pulmonary surfactant. M. Amrein, Invited seminar at the Lawson Health Research Institute, UofWO, London, April 2006.


1. Behandlung von Surfactanten 10 2007 025 898.6-41, applied

2. Verfahren und Vorrichtung zum Untersuchen einer oberflächenaktiven Substanz (PCT/DE02/01828), applied.

3. Method for locally highly resolved, mass-spectroscopic characterisation of surfaces using scanning probe technology, United States Patent 20060097164

Current Collaborations:
Local collaborations with the labs of: Drs. Yan Shi, Peter Tielemann, (Dr. Svetlana Baoukina), Elmar Prenner, John Matyas lab and May Ho.

Canadian labs: Dr. Zoya Leonenko, University of Waterloo; Drs. Ruud Veldhuizen, Fred Possmayer and Jim Lewis, University of Western Ontario

USA: Dr. Farzam Javadpour
Industrial Partners: JPK-Instruments AG, Berlin; Pneuma Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Delaware

CIHR operating grant; CIHR resource grant; Alberta Lung Association; CFI new opportunity; Alberta Childrens’ Hospital Foundation; Innovation Fund of Veterinary Medicine; Advanced Energy Consortium Texas, Industry sponsorship (JPK-Instruments AG, Berlin)


Joyce Maloney
Tel: (403) 220-7118


Dr. Sylvia Hill
Dr. Tobias Richter (MIF)
Dr. Wei-Dong Xiang (MIF)
Dr. Michael Schoel (MIF)


Lasantha Gunasekara
Diana Radovan


- Sara Tehranian

- Tracy Flach
- Ashley Mucsi
- Gilbert Ng
- Aswin Hari
- Sean Froese
- Melissa Bennett
- Jane Derocher


- Joseph Andrews
- Ryan Pratt