It's said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away — but whoever came up with that phrase likely wasn't expecting someone to use that apple to grow a new spinal cord.

But that's what University of Ottawa professor and self-described "biohacker" Andrew Pelling is trying to do.

That's what we do all day, is test crazy ideas. - Andrew Pelling

Pelling is one of 21 people worldwide, and just one of two Canadians, who have been chosen to be a 2016 TED fellow.

That means Pelling will leave for Vancouver today to deliver a TED Talk next week on his "biophysical manipulation" lab's research into using apples and pears to raise new cells.

"That's what my lab is really good at. That's what we do all day, is test crazy ideas. And a lot of times it fails, but every now and then we get a real gem," Pelling told CBC Ottawa's Hallie Cotnam.

The "biomaterial" normally used to repair muscles or skin can cost thousands of dollars and often involves getting that material from cadavers or animals, said Pelling.

andrew pelling mandoline apple slice

Using a mandoline "we got from Kijiji," University of Ottawa professor Andrew Pelling shows off how he slices the apples that his research team then uses to grow living cells. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC Ottawa)

So when Pelling's lab discovered that the apples and pears you can buy in the grocery store for a few loonies "behave in almost an identical fashion," they knew they were onto something big.

"We actually think about this as an open-source biomaterial," said Pelling.

"If I can invent something that helps, that has that potential for changing health care, then maybe we should just give that back to the public."