Ten Things to Know about Inducible T Cell Co-stimulators (ICOS)

The term ICOS —inducible T cell co-stimulators— has been prominent in my work as a science writer at Promega, recently. Here is a brief look at ICOS, how it works, and how it can be used in therapeutics research and development.

T cells do amazing things, like driving or blocking production of B cells and their related antibodies and antibody maturation, and they are the primary drivers of innate immunity. T cells have a variety of surface molecules, the primary and omnipresent T cell receptor (TCR), as well as CD3.

Schematic diagram of a T cell receptor TCR. The TCR interacts with ICOS in the immune response.

In the past 15 years or so, researchers have identified other, inducible receptors on T cells. These receptors appear when T cells are stimulated, enabling interactions with other cell types. The following information is summarized from a Frontiers in Immunology review by Wikenheiser et al.

What is ICOS (inducible T cell co-stimulators)?

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Priming an Effective T cell Response to Cancer

Cancer vaccines have been in progress for some time now. But a vaccine that is highly effective against cancer is not currently available.

However, an interesting report from Stanford University School of Medicine researchers, Dr. Irving Weissman, et al. shows some promise in a development of an altered means of stimulating the immune system, that could result in a stronger immune response and ultimately a better cancer vaccine. The paper by Weissman et al. was published electronically ahead of print in PNAS USA, May 20, 2013: “Anti-CD47 antibody-mediated phagocytosis of cancer by macrophages primes an effective antitumor T-cell response.”

Schematic of a macrophage engulfing, digesting and presenting parts of a pathogen or foreign cell to the cell surface.
Schematic of a macrophage engulfing, digesting and presenting parts of a pathogen or foreign cell to the cell surface.

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