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Close up of a mouse

Scientists have now edited genes inside mice to prevent a form of inherited deafness.

While cautioning that much more research is needed, the scientists said they hope the technique might someday be used to prevent deafness in children born in families with a history of genetic hearing loss.

Before that could happen, however, extensive tests would be needed to determine whether the treatment is safe — and whether it would actually work in humans.

"We're hopeful that our results will help guide the development of such strategies," says David Liu, a genetic engineer at Broad Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The results were reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Liu performed his experiments on a type of mouse known as a Beethoven mouse. These mice carry a defect that causes them to lose their hearing starting early in life. It's probably not what caused the famous German composer Ludwig von Beethoven's deafness. Still, the same defect does cause deafness in some families.

"Humans that are born with even one bad copy of this...