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Hair production is the result of the cells of the hair follicle depositing layer after layer of protein into this tubular space.

Can anyone help me parse the above sentence?

Is "depositing layer after layer of protein" used for hair follicle or cells?

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Hair production is the result of the cells of the hair follicle depositing layer after layer of protein into this tubular space.

Bolded above are the subject and verb of your sentence; the cells are the noun which carry out the action "to deposit". So the short answer to your question is, it refers to "the cells".

A hair follicle is an object composed of cells, and the thing being deposited is protein. The manner in which the protein is being deposited is "layer by layer". So the sentence has a lot of additional information in it, and I can understand why it could be confusing. A shorter version with less information could have been written:

Hair production is the result of hair follicle cells depositing protein into this space.

However they wanted to give you more information; they wanted you to know how the protein was deposited, they wanted you to know the space was tubular, etc. So they appended some extra information to help paint the picture, which wasn't necessary to make it a grammatical sentence but was necessary to get their point across. And I believe that's where you got confused.

TLDR; "depositing layer after layer of protein" is the action being carried out by "the cells". Those cells just happen to be hair follicle cells.

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"Depositing layer after layer of protein" is referring to "the cells of the hair follicle."

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    Thus ultimately it is used for cells. You could say: "Hair follicle consist of cells. These cells deposit layer after layer of protein into this tubular space. Those protein layers form a structure called 'hair'." – Stephen Feb 20 '13 at 22:01
  • It is not referred to every cells, but to the cell of the hair follicle. – kiamlaluno Feb 20 '13 at 22:12
  • Grammatically, though, it refers to "the cells". "of the hair follicle" is simply a description of what kind of cells; the sentence could have been written as "...the result of the hair follicle cells..." just as easily. – WendiKidd Feb 20 '13 at 22:13
  • Grammatically, the cells of the hair follicle is a noun phrase, which is the subject of depositing proteins […]. – kiamlaluno Feb 20 '13 at 22:22

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