Targeting embryonic stem cells (ESCs) is important for ESC labeling, drug delivery and cell fate control. In this study, we identified twenty-two phage clones that bind specifically to the hESC cell line X-01, which was derived from human blastocysts of Chinese origin. One phage (H178), which displays the sequence VGGEAWSSPTDL, showed higher binding affinity to hESCs than to a monkey ES cell line (RS366.4) and two mouse ES cell lines (R1 and E14). Using quantum dots (QDs) conjugated to the H178 phage, we demonstrate that the phage can specifically bind to hESCs in vitro. Our results suggest a possible interaction between the selected peptide and the stem cell extracellular matrix (ECM). The selection method described here allows rapid and efficient screening of unique phage clones and targeting cells. The phages displaying peptides identified by this study have potential applications for cargo delivery and receptor studies.
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