Portrait of Dr Ben Goult

Dr Ben Goult

Reader in Biochemistry

About

Ben joined the School of Biosciences in August 2014 where his research group specialises in the structural and biochemical studies of cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesion complexes.
Career 

  • 1995-1998 University of Sheffield: BSc(Hons) Biochemistry 2:1 
  • 1998-2002 UMIST: PhD in Biological Science 
  • 2003-2005 University of Manchester: Research Associate 
  • 2005-2006 AstraZeneca Alderley Park: Senior Physical Scientist 
  • 2006-2012 University of Leicester: Research Associate 
  • 2012-2014 University of Leicester: Research Fellow 
  • 2014-2017 University of Kent: Lecturer 
  • 2017-2020 University of Kent: Senior Lecturer
  • 2020-present University of Kent: Reader  

Dr Ben Goult obtained his first degree in Biochemistry at the University of Sheffield in 1998, before embarking on a PhD in the labs of Dr Tim Norwood (University of Leicester) and Professor Lu-Yun Lian (University of Leicester/ Manchester) developing NMR based approaches for drug discovery. Following a 2year postdoctoral position at the University of Manchester he moved to AstraZeneca Alderley Park as a Senior Physical Scientist. In 2005, Ben returned to Leicester to work with Professor David Critchley on the proteins that regulate cell adhesion and migration, in particular the FERM domain containing proteins talin and kindlin; key players in integrin mediated adhesion.

In 2014, Ben moved to the University of Kent to set up his own research group working on structural mechanobiology of talin and how cells can convert physical cues into biological signals. In 2021, Ben proposed The MeshCODE Theory, and his research group is working to understand the mechanical basis of memory in the brain.  

ORCID: 0000-0002-3438-2807 

Research interests

I am a structural mechanobiologist and combine structural biology, biochemistry, biophysics and mechanobiology to define the role of how physical and mechanical forces are sensed through cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesion complexes to control cellular processes. I have developed an international reputation for my work on the protein talin, and our work has defined talin as a major mechanosensitive signalling hub. More recently we have discovered that talin has “molecular memory” and so provides organisms with a way to store data, through persistent alterations in protein conformation.   

Read our latest work "The Mechanical Basis of Memory - The MeshCODE theory" at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnmol.2021.592951/full 

This theory identifies a binary coding that manages memory in the brain and a physical location for where memories are stored.  

Teaching

Year 2 

BI532 Skills For Bioscientists 2 

Final Year 

BI602 Cell Signalling (Module Convenor)   

Supervision

Deciphering the talin code – a cellular code that enables cells to feel their environment

All cells in the human body are held in the correct place via adhesion to neighbouring cells, and to a dense meshwork of proteins that surround cells called the extracellular matrix. It is becoming evident that cells interpret classical signalling pathways in the context of the mechanical forces experienced by the cells attachment to this matrix, and this “mechanosensing” of the environment is a major determinant of cellular function.  In cancer cells this “mechanosensing” is misregulated, leading to aberrant cell behaviour and metastasis.

The aim of this project is to determine precisely using a combination of biochemistry, structural biology and mechanobiology approaches how talin is able to adopt different conformations to switch “On” and “Off” different cellular pathways. The project will focus on defining the talin interactions that are misregulated in metastatic cell migration.

Mechanical signalling mis-regulation in metastasis

Cell migration requires the coordinated assembly and disassembly of adhesions between the cell and the surrounding extracellular matrix, coupled to force exerted by the cell which enables the cell to pull itself forwards. While cell migration is essential for the development of multicellular life, it must be tightly controlled. Cancer metastasis is a product of uncontrolled cell migration.

The aim of this project is to use structural and biochemical techniques to characterise the protein-protein complexes that drive these processes.

How to read a memory – proving the MeshCODE theory

We have recently discovered how protein molecules have molecular memory and can store information in the shape of molecules with memory, that are able to story information, Our research has identified an expansive network of mechanical binary switches that are built into each and every synapse that we hypothesise have the potential to store information, and to alter the synaptic impedance to allow control of synaptic activity.

This project aims to test this MeshCODE theory for how memories might be stored in the brain by actually writing and reading information onto single molecules. Using a combination of biochemistry, biophysics and mechanobiology you will work to measure and observe these changes in shape that represent the signature of memory writing. This project will ultimately develop the tools and reagents to be able to read these patterns of information in synapses and ultimately in animals.

Wiring the brain – deciphering how neurons make the right connections.

The human brain is comprised of trillions of neurons, all linked together to form complex networks.  Quite how our brains are wired up with such precision is a major question in biology. This project will work on the mechanisms that regulate axon guidance, the process by which neurons send out axons that extend and migrate to their correct targets.

The project will focus on defining the talin interactions that are central to its function in axon guidance and neuronal pathfinding.

Please send your CV and summary of your research interests to:  b.t.goult@kent.ac.uk

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