Erin L. Davies, Ph.D.

Erin L. Davies, Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute


Dr. Erin L. Davies is determining the embryonic origin of sustained adult pluripotency and lifelong regenerative abilities in freshwater and marine flatworms. Adult pluripotent somatic stem cells, called ‘neoblasts,’ drive the flatworm life cycle and fuel tissue homeostasis, regeneration, and reproduction, making these animals ideal systems to study potency regulation and developmental plasticity. Although flatworms are completely reliant on potent, proliferative stem cells, these long-lived animals remain highly regenerative as they age and do not readily develop cancer. How do flatworms thwart existential threats that commonly afflict aging mammals, without compromising fitness or longevity?

Research in the Davies lab aims to elucidate the naturally evolved mechanisms that underlie adult pluripotent stem cell specification and acquisition of regeneration-competence during flatworm embryogenesis. Comparative studies across species and life cycle stages will shed light on how developmental programs are adapted postnatally for tissue replacement and repair, and how re-awakening or dysregulation of embryonic developmental programs can contribute to cancer initiation and progression. Discovery-driven research in these understudied flatworm species will broaden our understanding of potency regulation, growth control, and the evolution of developmental programs and tumor suppression. Davies lab research will provide paradigms for reverse-engineering tissue regeneration in non-regenerative mammalian systems.

Areas of Expertise

Germ Cells


Selected Recent Publications

Embryonic origin of adult stem cells required for tissue homeostasis and regeneration

Erin L. Davies, Kai Lei, Seidel Christopher W. Seidel, Sean A. McKinney, Amanda E. Kroesen, Long Guo, Sofia M. C. Robb, Eric J. Ross, Kirsten Gotting, Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado.
eLife. 10.7554/eLife.21052: 2017. [ Journal Article ]

Planarian Anatomy Ontology: a resource to connect data within and across experimental platforms.

Stephanie H. Nowotarski, Erin L Davies, Sofia MC Robb, Eric J Ross, Nicolas Matentzoglu, Viraj Doddihal, Mol Mir, Melainia McClain, Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado.
Development. 148 (15): dev196097, 2021.
Full-Text Article

Sustained pluripotency underlies extreme developmental and reproductive plasticity

Erin L. Davies and Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado
185-196, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

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