Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) inhibit the formation and differentiation of neural stem cells during embryonic development. In this study, the effects of prenatal exposure to EMF on the number of granule cells in the dentate gyrus of 4-week-old rats were investigated. This experiment used a control (Cont) group and an EMF exposed (EMF) group (three pregnant rats each group). The EMF group consisted of six offspring (n=6) of pregnant rats that were exposed to an EMF of up to 900 megahertz (MHz) for 60 min/day between the first and last days of gestation. The control group consisted of five offspring (n=5) of pregnant rats that were not treated at all. The offspring were sacrificed when they were 4 weeks old. The numbers of granule cells in the dentate gyrus were analyzed using the optical fractionator technique. The results showed that prenatal EMF exposure caused a decrease in the number of granule cells in the dentate gyrus of the rats (P<0.01). This suggests that prenatal exposure to a 900 MHz EMF affects the development of the dentate gyrus granule cells in the rat hippocampus. Cell loss might be caused by an inhibition of granule cell neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.